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Basic Ship Creation

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The Basic Ship Creation tutorial is going to take you through the process of creating a ship.

The Class Design Window

Open the Class Design Window F5. You should see a window that is mostly a huge blank space. The first step is to create a new class. Press New in the bottom left hand corner.

Note: If you can't see any buttons at the bottom then check you are running in a resolution of at least 1280x1024, or select "Reduced Size Windows" in the "Miscellaneous" submenu of the main game menu.

Some text will appear in the white expanse as the program adds a few basic systems to this class. This is just the summary view though, so switch to the Design View tab. You will now see the list of available components. Bridge, Crew Quarters, Engineering Spaces, etc.

There aren't many because in Aurora you not only have to design the ships, you have to design most of the components as well. Before we get into how to do that, lets take a quick look around the class window. Across the top, starting from the left, are the name of the Empire, the Class Name, the Type, the Hull, the Build Points (Cost to build) and a set of checkboxes.

The Class Name will have been generated automatically based on whatever theme you selected during game creation. if you want to change it you can either press the Rename button and type a name or press Auto Rename, which will pick another name from the current theme. Select Name allows you to select a name from many lists of Empire Themes.

The Type is either a Ship or a Planetary Defence Centre (PDCs). There are some difference between the two, such as no engines or shields on a PDC, but for the moment we will only be designing ships so leave that dropdown alone.

Hull contains a huge list of hull descriptions. This is purely cosmetic and you can choose whatever you like. So you can have a 1000-ton dreadnought or a 50,000-ton frigate if you wish. The actual size of the ship will depend entirely on what systems you add. This is because as time advances, ship sizes will generally increase so I saw no point in assigned fixed hull names to particular ranges of hull sizes. For example, modern destroyers are larger than battleships from the mid-19th century. You can also reclassify a class at any time so you may create an early cruiser which you re-designate as a destroyer as your technology advances. If you want a new hull name, click New Hull and type in a new name. Your design will change to that hull type.

Build Points is the total cost of all the systems on the ship plus the cost of the armour and is the amount of wealth that will be required to pay for the ship. The raw materials that will be required can be found in a list in the bottom left and should add up to the build points. We'll leave the checkboxes for now and come back to them later.

In the Components section on the far right, which lists every component added to the design, some basic systems have already been allocated to the design, including some armour, crew quarters, fuel storage, engineering and a bridge.

Down the left hand edge in the Primary Information section are details on armour, shields, the total number of Hits to Kill (HTK) and the build time for the ship.

The Exact Class Size is the size of the ship in Hull Spaces (HS, equal to 50 tons). This will also be the size of the ship for the purposes of active sensor detection.

Armour Rating is the thickness of the armour and can be increased or decreased by clicking the small arrows to the right of this box.

Armour Area is the surface area of the ship based on the assumption it is spherical in shape.

The Armour Strength Required is equal to (Surface Area / 4) rounded up. Armour sufficient to meet this requirement is automatically added to the design as it gets larger. If you increase the thickness of the armour then each extra 'layer' is added to the previous one. As the total size of the ship and therefore the total surface area increases with each layer of armour, each additional layer will be cover a greater area and therefore require greater strength than the previous one. Each type of armour in Aurora has a different strength rating per hull space so as tech increases you will need less hull space dedicated to armour to meet the Armour Strength Required. As less armour also means a smaller ship, extra layers of armour will also be smaller.

For example, at the moment you have the technology for Duranium Armour, which has a strength per HS of 5. The armour area is 14.1. Dividing by 4 gives us a Required Armour Strength of 3.525. As Duranium has a strength per HS of 5, we need 3.525/5 HS of armour, which is 0.705, rounded to 0.7. As you can see on the design, 0.7 HS of Duranium Armour has automatically been allocated. If you had High Density Duranium Armour, which has a strength of 6 per HS, you would only need 3.525/6 = 0.6 HS of armour. Obviously this make little difference at the moment but as ships get larger and armour gets stronger, it can make a significant difference.

Try increasing the Armour Rating to 2. The ship is now slightly larger and there are two layers of armour so the surface area has increased to 16 and the armour strength to 8. Duranium Armour is armour strength 5 so we need 8/5 = 1.6 HS of armour. Put the Armour Rating back to 1 for now. You don't really need to remember any of the details. Just remember that increasing the armour thickness or increasing the size of the ship will increase the amount of armour required and researching new armour tech will reduce the amount of armour required for future designs.

Armour Columns is the 'width' of the armour. The armour system in Aurora combat is similar to that of an old FASA game called Interceptor. The armour is represented by a block of 'boxes' with the width based on the size of the ship and the depth based on the thickness of the armour. Each weapon type has a damage template which determines which armour 'boxes' are damaged. Missiles tend to crater the armour while lasers cause narrower but deeper damage. Some weapons, such as railguns, have a high rate of fire and cause more overall damage than lasers but because that damage is split among many small hits, they tend to sandpaper armour rather than penetrating as a laser does. Any damage hitting in a location where all the armour has been destroyed will penetrate and cause internal damage. It is possible even for a well armoured ship to get unlucky and receive several hits in the same location, which will result in armour penetration and internal damage. That internal damage could even set off a string of secondary explosions, so a Hood-style catastrophe is possible. Equally, if a ship has hits distributed all over the armour and doesn't lose any key system or suffer secondary explosion, it can withstand quite a lot of punishment

We'll come back to Shield Strength and Recharge a little later.

Internal HTK (Hits to Kill) is the total HTK rating for all of the ship's internal systems. More on this later.

I'll come back to Power Systems later.

In the Life Support section, the Required Crew is the total crew required for all the various systems. Only 23 at the moment because we haven't added anything to the design. Life Support is the total crew possible based on the number and type of crew quarters. A standard Crew Quarters system provides accommodation for 250 crew. If you have too little life support, a message will appear in the Design Errors box in the bottom right.

Load Time is the estimated time to load a freighter, colony ship or troop transport design.


Right, lets get back to actually designing something. As we are going to need a lot more minerals than are present on the Earth, a good first design choice is a geological survey ship. Lets change the hull to Geological Survey Vessel. This is only cosmetic but it tells us the intended role of the ship with a glance at the summary display. We already know how to build Geological Survey Sensors so add one to the design by double-clicking on the appropriate line in the available components section.

The Geological Survey Sensors will appear in the component list on the right and also will change the Brief Summary Display under the Available Components section.

Summary Window

Before we go any further, lets take a look at this Summary section. It should appear the same as the example below, with the possible exception of the class name

Tribal class Geological Survey Vessel    550 tons     48 Crew     151 BP      TCS 11  TH 0  EM 0
1 km/s     Armour 1-5     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/1     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Maintenance Capacity 172 MSP    Max Repair 100 MSP

Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range N/A

Geological Survey Sensors (1)   1 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a commercial vessel for maintenance purposes

The first line is the name of the ship plus its hull type, the size in tons, the total crew, the number of build points, the TCS or Target Cross Section, which is the exact class size rounded up to the next whole number and is the value used to detect the ship with active sensors, the Thermal Signature (TH) and the Electromagnetic Signature (EM). I'll get back to the last two later.

The first item on the second line shows the speed in km/s (only 1 at the moment as the ship doesn't have any engines yet). Next is the armour, shown by thickness and then width. So at the moment the ship is protected by a belt of armour that is represented by a line of 5 boxes. If you increase the armour rating to 2, the armour on the summary display will change to 2-6, which means the armour is now represented by a set of boxes that is two high and 6 wide. Change it back to Armour Rating 1 for now. These armour boxes can be viewed on the Ship Window, including any that are lost to damage. We'll get to that when we discuss combat.

Next is Shields, which are shown as Strength and Recharge Time in Seconds. The four Sensor values are Thermal / EM / Gravitational / Geological. Every ship has default thermal and EM ratings of 1, which can be increased by the addition of dedicated thermal and EM sensors. The Geological Sensor Rating of 1 is provided by the newly added Geological Survey Sensors. The Damage Control Rating of 1 is provided by the 1x Engineering Spaces. Damage Control determines the speed at which repairs can be made and can be increased by adding damage control systems or additional engineering systems. Finally the PPV rating is the Planetary Protection Value and is based on the ship's weapons. This is used to determine how much protection the ship provides to nearby colonies.

Line three shows the current Maintenance Capacity, which is based on the size of the ship and the number of Engineering Spaces. Max Repair is the cost of the ship's most expensive system, in this case the Geological Survey Sensors. It is a very good idea to have maintenance supplies (MSP) greater than the Max Repair. When a ship suffers a maintenance failure, it will use up MSP equal to the cost of the affected system in order to prevent the failure. If insufficient MSP are available the affected system will be damaged and cease operation. If this is something vital such as a jump engine, the ship could be stuck a long way from home. Once damaged, a system can be fixed by damage control but the cost in MSP is doubled. Damaged systems can also be repaired by a shipyard.

The 4th line shows the fuel capacity and the range. The range is not shown yet because of the lack of engines. The 5th line shows the Geological Survey Sensors and the fact they generate 1 survey point. This is generated every hour. The 6th line shows this is currently classed as a commercial vessel, which means it doesn't suffer maintenance failures. That will soon change.


If we want to go anywhere we are going to need some engines so its time to design our first component.


Open up the F2 Economics window and press the Design button (in the middle of the line of buttons along the bottom). This will open the Create Research Project window. This is only a small and relatively simple window but very important. In the top right is the Research Project Type dropdown menu. At the moment it should be showing Active Sensors / Missile Fire Control. Change it to Engines. This should change the upper half of the window to show seven dropdown menus. Choosing different options on these menus will result in different engine designs. We know very little tech at the moment so we don't have any decisions to make, In fact the only dropdown with more than one option is the bottom one, which allows military or commercial engines. Leave it as military.

The lower half shows the stats for the engine design that will be generated by the selected options. Power Output is the power generated by the engine. The total power output from a ship's engines will determine the speed of the ship based on the following formula:

Speed = (Total Engine Output / Class Size) * 1000 

So a ship of size 250 with a total engine power of 800 would move at (800/250)*1000 = 3200 km/s

Explosion Chance is the percentage the engine will blow up if damaged, causing a secondary explosion. Efficiency is the fuel efficiency of the engine. As you research fuel efficiency tech, you can design engines that will use less fuel for the same power output. The Thermal Signature is how much heat is generated by the engine. A ship's thermal signature at full speed is the total thermal signature from its engines and this is the value used to detect the ship on thermal sensors. You can design engines with lower thermal signatures by researching Thermal Reduction technology, although they will cost more to build. The Engine Size is 5HS, which is fixed for military engines. You can put as many military engines on a design as you want though. The Engine HTK is the Hit to Kill value for the engine. HTK is the amount of damage that would automatically destroy the engine, 2 in this case. If hit by 1 point of damage there is a 50% chance the engine will be destroyed and a 50% chance it will remain intact. Internal armour can be added to engines to reduce the chance of damage. The Cost and Crew are the Build Point Cost and amount of crew members that will be added to the ship by the addition of one engine. Materials Required is the type of raw materials required for the engine. In this case 3x Duranium and 9x Gallicite. The Development Cost is the research cost required for this design before it can be put into production, in this case 120 Research Points.

The name given to this engine is the Nuclear Thermal Engine E10. You could change this name if you wish before creating the design but leave it for now and press Create. Press Close to shut the Create Research Project window. If the F2 Economics window is still open, close that as well

We are now going to enter SpaceMaster mode so we can give ourselves the new engine without having to research it. Make sure the F2 Economics window is definitely closed, move to the main menu bar and press Ctrl-S. This opens a small box for the SpaceMaster password. We didn't set one so just press Enter and you will be in SM (SpaceMaster) Mode. This means that certain windows, such as Economics, will have a few extra buttons that are only available in SM Mode. Now open the Economics window and go to the Research tab.

In the centre of this tab is the Create New Research project section. Just below the section heading there us a dropdown that should have Construction / Production selected. Change this to Power and Propulsion. In the list of systems tech available for research should be our new engine. If you select it, it should turn red. If we were going to research this project, we would also select a suitable scientist and press Create. Instead, thanks to the usefulness of SM Mode, press Instant. A popup box will appear asking for confirmation so press Yes.


The new engine should immediately appear on the list of Available Components in the Class Design window. Double-click the engine to add one to the design. It should appear in the component list on the right and it should make some significant changes to the summary view, as shown below

Tribal class Geological Survey Vessel    800 tons     73 Crew     164.5 BP      TCS 16  TH 25  EM 0
1562 km/s     Armour 1-7     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/1     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Annual Failure Rate: 5%    IFR: 0.1%    Maintenance Capacity 129 MSP    Max Repair 100 MSP

Nuclear Thermal Engine E10 (1)    Power 25    Fuel Use 100%    Signature 25    Armour 0    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range 112.5 billion km   (833 days at full power)

Geological Survey Sensors (1)   1 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a military vessel for maintenance purposes

Firstly, note that it is now classed as a military vessel so it will suffer from maintenance failures. This is reflected in the 3rd line of the summary, which now shows the Annual Failure Rate, which is the annual chance of a system failure, and the Incremental Failure Rate, which is the chance of a system failure in any given 5-day increment (which is when maintenance checks take place). These values shown on a class summary assume a ship has one year on its maintenance clock. On individual Ship Summaries, the Annual Failure Rate and IFR will be based on the ship's actual maintenance clock. The Thermal Signature value in the top right has changed to 25 to reflect the thermal signature of the engine, the fuel capacity line shows the range of the ship in both kilometers and time and the speed of the ship is now 1562 km/s. Remember the formula from the engine section. (Total Engine Output / Class Size) * 1000. So in this case, (25/16) x 1000 = 1562 km/s.

Lets add a second engine and a second geological survey sensor. The speed increases a little and the thermal signature doubles. The armour is now up to 1-10 as the ship is larger and the failure rate has increased to 14% per annum, because the proportion of engineering spaces in comparison to hull size is lower than before.

Tribal class Geological Survey Vessel    1350 tons     123 Crew     280 BP      TCS 27  TH 50  EM 0
1851 km/s     Armour 1-10     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/2     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Annual Failure Rate: 14%    IFR: 0.2%    Maintenance Capacity 130 MSP    Max Repair 100 MSP

Nuclear Thermal Engine E10 (2)    Power 25    Fuel Use 100%    Signature 25    Armour 0    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range 66.6 billion km   (416 days at full power)

Geological Survey Sensors (2)   2 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a military vessel for maintenance purposes

Active Sensors

Now its time to add an active sensor.


Open the Create Research Project window again, using either the Design button on the Economics window or Ctrl-F6 from the main menu. The first item in the Research Project Type list is active sensors, which is useful as that is what we need. There are five dropdowns this time. Lets make the size of the Antenna 2 HS. This increases the Sensor Strength of the component to 20, which our current Active Grav Sensor Strength of 10 multiplied by the 2 HS. In the text area that shows the details of the new active sensor, several of the fields are the same as the engines so I won't bother describing them again. New information includes the chance of destruction by electronic damage (from microwave weapons), the Resolution and the Range. Resolution Zero is actually resolution 1 but it is described as zero because it treats anything less than 1 as equal to 1.

The Range of an active sensor is equal to:

Range = Resolution x Sensor Strength x 10,000

So by increasing the resolution you can dramatically increase the range. At the moment, the range is 1 (resolution) x 20 (strength) x 10,000 = 200,000 km. Try changing the resolution to 100 (or 5000 tons). Now the range is 20,000,000 km. So why, you are no doubt asking, wouldn't you have the highest resolution possible? Good question!

An active sensor is able to detect any ship of a size that is equal to or greater than its resolution at its maximum range. So this sensor could detect a ship of 5000 tons or greater (size 100) at 20m km. If the target is smaller than the resolution, the maximum detection range is equal to Max Range x (Target Size / Resolution) ^2. So using this sensor against a target that was size 80, the formula would be:

20m km x (80/100)^2 or 20m x 0.8 x 0.8, which equals 12.8 million kilometers

Against a target of size 20 (1000 tons), the max detection range would be 20m x 0.2 x 0.2 or 0.8 million kilometers

Against a missile (size 1 unless it's huge), 20m x 0.01 x 0.01 = 0.002m, or just 2000 km.

So you need to design active sensors based on the role intended for that sensor. An area search sensor might be designed with a large resolution to find large enemy ships while a sensor designed to detect fast attack craft, which are 1000 tons or less would need a resolution of approximately 20. Missile detection sensors are usually resolution zero. In this case, we want a general search sensor so lets stick with resolution 100. If we encounter an enemy that likes to design ships of 4000 tons or 6000 tons we can modify future sensor designs to take the best advantage of an appropriate resolution (80 or 120).

You can give the sensor a different name if you like, then press Create. Go to the Research tab of the Economics window and select Sensors and Fire Control. Find the new sensor and use Instant.

While we are here, lets give ourselves a couple of other useful technologies. Change to the Power and Propulsion tab and use Instant on the Jump Point Theory tech. This opens up a few new technologies. Go back to Sensors and Fire Control and use Instant on the newly appeared Gravitational Survey Sensors.


Move back to the Class window where our new active sensor should have appeared. Add one of this sensor to the design, which should now appear as below. The GPS value for the sensor is its emissions signature. This can be detected by EM sensors while the active sensor is in operation. So use active sensors carefully as they can give away your position to ships or populations with passive EM sensors. Equally you can use your own EM sensors (when we create them), to watch for the active sensors of alien vessels. Note the ship is slightly slower now because it is larger and only has the same engine power as before. The failure rate has also increased a little and the max range has fallen slightly because the engines will burn the same fuel as before but because of the lower max speed you won't travel as far before it runs out.

Tribal class Geological Survey Vessel    1450 tons     133 Crew     300.5 BP      TCS 29  TH 50  EM 0
1724 km/s     Armour 1-11     Shields 0-0     Sensors 1/1/0/2     Damage Control Rating 1     PPV 0
Annual Failure Rate: 16%    IFR: 0.2%    Maintenance Capacity 130 MSP    Max Repair 100 MSP

Nuclear Thermal Engine E10 (2)    Power 25    Fuel Use 100%    Signature 25    Armour 0    Exp 5%
Fuel Capacity 50,000 Litres    Range 62.1 billion km   (416 days at full power)

Active Search Sensor S20-R100 (1)     GPS 2000     Range 20.0m km    Resolution 100
Geological Survey Sensors (2)   2 Survey Points Per Hour

This design is classed as a military vessel for maintenance purposes

Note that when following this tutorial in newer versions of Aurora, some of these details may turn out slightly different, for example, the above may read:

Active Search Sensor MR10-R100 (1)     GPS 2000     Range 10.0m km    Resolution 100

Creating a Grav Survey Ship

While we could continue to play about with the design, it is adequate to show you the basics of a simple survey class. Now we will quickly create a gravitational survey design using the above design as a foundation. Press the Copy Design button. You now have a second design that is exactly the same as the first one, except the name has a " - Copy" suffix. Use Rename or Auto Rename to give this class a new name and change the hull to Gravitational Survey Vessel. You should have Gravitational Survey Sensors in the list of available components so double-click on the Geological Survey Sensors in the Components list to remove them one at a time and replace them with a pair of Gravitational Survey Sensors. You now have two survey designs, one for each survey role.

How do you actually build them? I'll cover that in the next section, as well as some other useful designs