Hauling modular cutter modules across a world
|Pricing for standard atmosphere version|
With the popularization of modular cutter modules came a need to haul said modules between starports and destinations potentially quite some distance away. Grav vehicles and aircraft were too expensive in many cases, while ground vehicles were massive enough they did not often mesh well with road networks. The solution in many such cases was airships.
The Cuttermate Dirigible is actually a series of dirigible designs, each made for a specific planetary gravity and atmosphere. The statistics listed in this article are for a Terra-prime model, with no significant protection against the atmosphere; a Hell World version would cost more, depending on the specific defenses installed. Likewise, a Cuttermate made for a low gravity world and one for a high gravity world will not fly in each others' intended environment.
The Cuttermate Dirigible, like most airships, is mostly gas envelope. Most of the rest is a slightly flexible 30-ton cargo area. (The Cuttermate's designers predicted that, while "30 ton cylindrical" would be adhered to, critical particulars of the modular cutter module standard such as radius, length, and endcaps might vary over time, and Cuttermate pilots would be expected to be able to handle all such variants. The Cuttermate is designed to do just that.) Forward of that is a spacious crew cabin, including a bunk and fresher.
Pilots are expected to be awake for takeoff and landing, and to be alertable if traffic, weather, or airspace control issues come up, but during most of their journeys, the autopilot is more than capable of flying a straight line from point A to point B. Many pilots literally sleep on the job during the autopiloted segments, allowing them to technically be flying around the clock, stopping only for meal/refueling breaks. That said, some pilots install a small refrigerator or pantry to allow them to keep going up to the limits of their Cuttermate's fuel cells (which use the same liquid hydrogen as fusion power plants). At maximum speed, a Cuttermate can fly for 20 hours without refueling; the recommended cruising speed of 100 kmph extends that to 60 hours. The onboard computer is provided more for pilot entertainment and sanity than for any vehicular function.
While there are no passengers in the official design, the crew cabin can easily install another seat or two, and the bunk is large enough to sleep two. This, too, is intended more for pilot entertainment and sanity than vehicular purpose.
The Cuttermate Dirigible designs were created as part of the original design of modular cutter modules, and freely distributed for downport authorities to make their own from. TL-9 was chosen as a technology level that even a moderately advanced world should be able to maintain, from the world's starport if nothing else. Several downports host a few Cuttermates that are almost as old as the port itself, with further Cuttermates constructed over time as the port expanded to service more traffic.
Cuttermate Dirigibles are common enough to be unremarkable. They are not exclusively used for modular cutter modules; other uses include ferrying construction and other industrial vehicles to and from job sites, carrying non-modular cargoes, and sometimes ferrying small groups (typically 12-60) on scenic aerial tours.
There are many tales involving a mated pair of sophonts who live in each others' constant company aboard a Cuttermate, one of whom works as the pilot while the other works in some remote capacity of relevance to the story, where the climax involves the Cuttermate - and thus the previously always-off-screen person - suddenly arriving with up to 30 tons of gear that helps resolve the plot. The pilot rarely gets characterization beyond a name and maybe a physical description, thus often becoming a focal character for derivative works (which usually center on the period shortly after said arrival, wherein the pilot does anything but pilot). No small number of actual Cuttermate pilots read those stories and fantasize about having similar adventures.
References & Contributors / Sources
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