The U.S.S. Sulaco is a fictional spaceship shown in the film Aliens and briefly seen in Alien3. Her name comes from a fictional port in Joseph Conrad's novel Nostromo, which was the name of the spaceship in the previous movie in the series. In Aliens, the Sulaco is used by the United States Colonial Marines, a fictional military force, as a transport to investigate the loss of communication on LV-426. The following information is from the film and the book "Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual".
The Sulaco is a Conestoga class starship, thirteenth of its class, originally designed as a troop and logistics transport. By 2179 in the Alien-universe, these ships had been converted into a rapid-response military transport, with orbital bombardment and fleet support capabilities.
The Sulaco masses 78,000 metric tons and can carry an additional 20,000 tons of cargo. It measures 385 meters (1,260 ft) in length. As a troop carrier, the Sulaco carries two UD4L Cheyenne dropships in the film (though it is capable of holding eight) and has sufficient life support capabilities for 90 crew and passengers to be supported indefinitely. In an emergency, as many as 2,000 troops can be placed in hibernation in the main cargo hangars for a maximum four days. Colonial Marines stationed on the ship each receive a small locker for uniforms and personal paraphenilia, while Officers are granted larger lockers for their personal items. No actual crew is needed —- the ship is fully automated and can sustain and defend itself with the use of an advanced Artificial Intelligence computer. An android (Bishop in this case) accompanies most missions to monitor the computer and life support systems.
It is powered by a Westingland A-59 3.6 terawatt fusion reactor using high density lithium hydride for fuel. The high density of the lithium hydride provides the ship with one whole year of power with only 900 cubic meters of fuel. The reactor itself is protected by armor and in an emergency, the reactor can vent pressure and eject dangerous liquids safely into space, preventing damage of the ship itself. It has a regular acceleration of 0.5g (5 m/s²) and can go a maximum acceleration of one g, but will burn 16 times as much fuel if it operates at this speed. Sublight propulsion is provided by four GF-2400 rocket motors using industrial carbon-diamond as reaction mass. Faster-than-light propulsion is provided by a hyperdrive tachyon shunt, with a maximum speed of 0.74 light year per sidereal day. The ship is designed to operate in space only — if it enters an atmosphere with any type of gravity, it will not be able to sustain any acceleration and crash. The Sulaco's hull panels are constructed from radar absorbing material, which reduces the ship's radar cross section to low levels. It is painted dark grey to keep the ship from being seen by the naked eye.
After the Sulaco launched the cryotubes with Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop, it is unknown what happened with the ship afterwards.
- Eight long-range ASAT missiles fired from the dorsal launch bay
- Two forward-firing 800 MeV Neutral Particle Beam weapons, which can disable the electronics systems of enemy spacecraft out to a range of 100,000 km
- Four (two twin turrets, one dorsal, one ventral) Kinetic Energy Railguns
- Two 80 MW point-defense lasers for vaporizing incoming missiles and kinetic energy rounds
- Ventral mine dispenser — magazine can hold up to 60 orbital fragmentation mines
- Up to 80 guided re-entry vehicles including bunker buster, high-explosive, and nuclear warheads
- 20 decoy ballutes and two maneuverable decoy drones in aft ventral bay.
- A jamming system that allows the scrambling of electronic signals up to 6,000 miles away in space and up to 60 miles through an atmosphere.
Film Design Edit
Syd Mead, a principal conceptual designer on Aliens, first designed the Sulaco as a massive sphere, bristling with antennae. James Cameron was not satisfied; he sketched the "style" of ship he imagined, which was more like a streamlined warship plying the black. Syd's subsequent redesign is what we see on screen: he maximized Cameron's direction, making the Sulaco a battleship — essentially an enlarged version of a pulse rifle.