Vessel Design Principles

These design principles for ship construction have been issued by the ISDC's Naval Architecture Group. They outline the requirements and objectives that the completed vessel will be expected to fulfill.

The ISDC requires a vessel that is capable of:

  • achieving the superluminal relativistic speeds necessary for interstellar travel;
  • providing an independent scientific exploration and research platform in deep space; and
  • defending itself and the interests of ISDC treaty partners

Architectural Principles

The vessel's mass must be constrained so as to ensure effective performance within the capability of current power generation and propulsion technologies.

The vessel is intended for operation only in space. Capabilities for operation in planetary atmospheric or gravitational conditions or for landing planetside are not required.

The expected design life is fifteen years. It is expected that this will be achieved through a modular design, allowing key systems and habitation spaces fitted to the spaceframe to be swapped out and upgraded throughout the vessel's design life.


In order to maximise the benefit of each mission, it is expected that the vessel will operate in deep space for extended periods of time before returning to Earth.

Operating Range

The vessel must be capable of sustained, independent operation in deep space (operating range) for up to six months, with the capability of operating under emergency conditions for a further six months. This will require consideration of storage capacity for fuel, supplies and spares. Installations and equipment must also have certified reliability (MTBF) ratings appropriate to this range.

Traversal Range

The vessel must be capable of traversing a sufficient number of light years between returns to Earth (traversal range) to make the operating range effective.

This range may be achieved with a combination of fuel storage capacity and the ability to reliably gather fuel while operating.


Living conditions aboard ship are considered a major contributor to the success of extended missions in the challenging and isolated environment of deep space. Ensuring the physical and psychological wellbeing of the crew (not all of whom will be from the military) is considered vital for efficient and safe operation. 

The vessel must provide a "shirt-sleeves" operating environment: Earth-normal atmospheric, gravity and background-radiation environmental conditions.

Habitation spaces must not be overly confined or restrictive. The space available for habitation spaces must be balanced with equipment and operating spaces, within the constraints on the vessel's mass and the demands of environmental systems. 


In the short to medium term the ISDC will have only one vessel capable of interstellar travel which will severely limit the rescue options available should a catastrophic event occur.

The vessel's design must therefore incorporate redundancy and system duplication that is sufficient to ensure the availability of core systems in all but the most catastrophic of scenarios.  The vessel must also have sufficient repair capabilities to ensure that core systems can be restored within timeframes that do not threaten the safety of the crew.

Exploration Functions

The vessel's exploration functions will extend beyond the collection of raw data for delivery back to laboratories on Earth. The vessel will be required to carry a team of scientists and provide them with equipment and laboratories so as to maximise the advantage of proximity to planetary discoveries and stellar phenomenon.

The vessel must function as an independent scientific exploration and research platform, equipped to complete first-level analysis of discoveries (for example from orbit) in sufficient detail to allow more detailed secondary exploration activity (for example planetary landings and surveys).

Data recording and sample collection/storage facilities must be sufficient to allow the capture and retention of all information considered significant enough for further detailed analysis back on Earth.

Defence Functions

The vessel must be capable of effective self-defence in a largely unknown strategic environment. This will require versatility from defence systems.

The primary tactical scenario anticipated will be combat between vessels. It is expected that key tactical drivers in such scenarios will include the ability to avoid detection and maintain distance from threat vessels while maintaining a capability to project force at such distances.

Tactical sensory systems must be capable of identifying and tracking potential threats at the longest possible range while avoiding detection of the vessel itself.

Weapons systems must be capable of delivering tactically decisive payloads to targets at distances consistent with the safety of the ship.

Countermeasure systems must be capable of preventing or minimising damage to the vessel from threat weapon systems. It is anticipated that both kinetic and energy weapons are likely to be encountered - countermeasures to both system types are required.