Their primary purpose, aside from transporting personnel across the vast distances of space, is to act as carriers for rapid deployment UD-4L Cheyenne Dropships, as well as many other Marine vehicles and all associated equipment. Conestoga-class ships are well armored and heavily armed, including a compliment of nuclear weapons.
The Conestoga class was originally designed as a troop transport with limited defensive capabilities. However, this role expanded over time, and continuous upgrades eventually saw the class evolve from a fleet prime mover to a light assault ship with secondary responsibilities for space control and orbital bombardment support.
Over 385 meters in length and massing some 78,000 metric tons, the Conestogas are designed to an 8-17-0 layout, an asymmetric configuration which offers the optimum cargo capacity within a compact and well-armored hull.
Energy and propulsion
The vessel's primary power system is a Westingland A-59 fusion reactor with a maximum generating output of 3.6 Terawatts. Like most military vessels, the Conestogas use a lithium-hydride or 'dry' fusion plant. The basic fuel for the plant is the crystalline powder form of lithium-hydride. The specific gravity of the fuel is 0.82 metric tons per cubic meter, making it extremely space efficient, avoiding the problems of cryogenic storage associated with civilian reactors fueled by heavy hydrogen isotopes such as deuterium and tritium. The LiH plant accepts the powder in very fine form, allowing it to be shipped and pumped as if it were a liquid, and administered into the powerplant as a blown dust. The powder must be stored in double-lined containers to prevent contact with water, otherwise it will dissociate and react violently.
Propulsion units are located aft of the Conestoga's main reactor. All Conestoga-class vessels employ a dual drive method for sublight and Faster Than Light (FTL) movement. To maneuver at sublight speeds, the Conestoga is equipped with four Gates-Heidman GF-240 rockets that derive power from the main reactor. At maximum power, each rocket provides a thrust of more than 35,100 metric tons.
However, fuel consumption is astronomical, allowing maximum thrust for only short periods. When FTL travel is necessary, the Conestoga employs a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 tachyon shunt hyperdrive. The normal cruising speed sustainable by these units is .74 light years per Terran day.
Spaceframe composition consists of bonded alloy and composite beams. These materials provide enough strength for massive acceleration while remaining flexible enough to withstand atmospheric re-entry. Hull armor consists of one armored skin, heavier than that on civilian transports. The armor is composed of laminated insulators, micrometeorite shielding, composite material, and aerogel. Protection against projectile weapons is limited, as with all spacecraft, but the aerogel is capable of dissipating radiation from lasers and particle beams. The hull is also covered with radar absorbent material.
The engines vents are provided with infrared suppression/dispersion. The hull coating is laser absorbent to reduce radar detection. The ship is colored in a dark charcoal scheme to reduce visibility. The foremost hull section provides the main cargo area for the Conestoga. Five 25x10 meter cargo doors on each side of the hull provide access. They have even been retrofitted into improvised dropship/shuttle launch bays. Underneath the cargo area reside the Conestoga's dedicated dropship/shuttle hangar with capacity for up to four UD-4L Cheyenne dropships.
To reduce crew workload, and increase efficiency and safety, operation of the ship is fully automated. The Conestoga is equipped with a 28 terabyte, carbon-60 based core mainframe. In effect, the ship could pilot itself and fight a space battle even if the crew were all dead or in hypersleep. However, at any time, combat or navigational decisions made by the ship can be overridden by the Commanding Officer. Backup is provided by an 8 terabyte mainframe and local terminals dispersed throughout the ship. Most damage control is automated by the Conestoga's mainframe.
If the reactor suffers severe damage, the entire assembly can be jettisoned before an explosion occurs. If the vehicle is damaged to the point it becomes untenable, emergency evac is prompted by the CO or automated systems. The Conestoga carries ten Type 337 Emergency Escape Vehicles. If the crew is in hypersleep, their capsules will be loaded by the automatic systems. The ship may also be scuttled by the CO. Self-destruct protocols are initiated manually, causing the reactor to go supercritical fifteen minutes after initiation.
All vessels of Conestoga class carry a light armament to expedite their secondary role as warships.
The main space-to-space punch is provided by eight XIM-28A Long Lance ASAT missiles within a dorsal launch bay. The missile is self guiding, and is capable of homing through the reception of several different formats of energy emission from the target. Its warhead is a forged fragment ring that creates a lethal burst of fragments. Secondary punch is provided by several systems.
The XIM-28A Long Lance ASAT missile is a 5.6m anti-satellite missile powered by a two-stage Lockmart LP-XII solid-rocket booster. Upon release from the launch bay, the first-stage motor ignites and accelerates the missile away from the launching ship. After four seconds,the first stage burns out and the missile coasts the rest of the way toward the target. The second stage ignites when the missile enters its terminal phase to provide the necessary burn to complete the intercept against the target. A coolant jet system in the tail helps mask the motor's infrared and UV signature when it burns.
Twin 800 megavolt particle beams run parallel to the ship's main axis. These weapons are powered from storage cells between the main reactor and the weapons. The 800 MeV Weapons are the primary beam weapons of the CMC Frigates. They fire into the starship’s forward ‘cone’, each capable of disabling a target’s electronics and instrumentation at ranges up to 250 km.
Sufficient deuterium tanking exists for up to 230 seconds of firing.
The Conestoga mounts 80 megawatt infrared lasers capable of vaporizing railgun fire or crippling incoming missiles and fighters. A ventral launch bay carries 60 orbital mines, enough to deny low orbit to large ships. A dorsal bay midship also carries 20 decoys designed to present a radar signature mimicking the Conestoga's. There are also two maneuvering drones designed to confuse enemy spacecraft. Space-to-surface capability is provided by a magazine below the cargo bay and forward of the dropship hangar. 80 free-fall, self-guiding Re-Entry Pods are carried.
For close combat, the Conestoga mounts twin railguns in dorsal and ventral turrets. Muzzle velocities exceed 12 km per second, with a practical range of 100 km. A single hit from a railgun round is often enough to cripple a ship. Close-in defense is handled by port and starboard laser turrets. The armament carried by the Conestoga enhances her flexibility, allowing her to function as a multi-role platform independent of a fleet or task force. She can carry a sizable Marine complement while defending herself from attack, or provide orbital bombardment in support of a Marine landing or planetary action. This has made the Conestoga the prime movers of the Marine fleet for almost two decades.
- Alien3 shows that Conestoga-class vessels are capable of entering a planet's atmosphere and even landing on the surface, despite their size.
- A smaller but similarly designed type of ship appears at the end of the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines, named the Resolute. To date, this class of ship remains unnamed.
- The design of the Conestoga-class ships is reminiscent of the command vessel used by Sark in the iconic 1982 movie TRON. This is likely more than simple coincidence, as both the Sulaco (the first Conestoga-class vessel depicted on-screen) and Sark's carrier were designed by Syd Mead.
- ↑ Aliens: Colonial Marines Collector's Edition - "USS SEPHORA CONESTOGA CLASS STARSHIP" blueprints - "WEYLAND-YUTANI CORP" logo on the bottom right
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 116 (1995), Boxtree Ltd..
- ↑ James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens (1986), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 117 (1995), Boxtree Ltd..
- ↑ Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 127 (1995), Boxtree Ltd..
- ↑ Aliens: Colonial Marines Collector's Edition - "USS SEPHORA CONESTOGA CLASS STARSHIP" blueprints