Towing and External Cargo

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This is a proposal about towing external objects through space.


  1. Additional options for both traders and pirates
  2. Opportunities for towing disabled ships

Towing and applications thereof

Consider a mechanic that allows one ship to latch on to another ship or ship like object in space, and pull it along with it. A common application for this would be external cargo containers, which are just that: big hulls without a crew or life support systems and without engines, whose sole purpose is to contain as much cargo as possible. Such containers would allow ships to transport high volumes of cargo from one place to another in a single trip. However, cargo containers would be highly vulnerable in combat and would also slow the ship down considerably, so trading away from the Safe Lanes would be extremely risky. Conversely, pirates would have a vested interest in capturing cargo containers intact and towing them to a safe haven themselves. Destruction of a cargo container would destroy a large portion of the contents, and scatter the rest in space, which could then be collected by ships.

Another application of towing would be towing other ships. Disabled ships can be taken to a friendly planet for a monetary reward (it wouldn't allow the player to keep the towed ship), or elsewhere for missioning purposes.

Towing mechanics

To tow an object, a ship needs to have a towing outfit installed, possibly a tractor beam of some sort. This outfit counts as an activated ability. To activate the towing connection, the player must fly to within a certain distance of the object and activate the tow outfit. After this, the towed object follows the towing ship around at a certain distance. Its mass is added to the towing ship's mass for purposes of speed and acceleration calculations.

When landing, any towed objects will be taken to the surface as well. When taking off, any towable containers owned by the player will also take off, so long as the pilot has the towing outfits installed for it. This could optionally be overridden on the land screen.

A single ship could potentially tow more than one object at a time, if multiple towing outfits were installed.