Interplanetary Space Vehicle

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Spacecraft Registry
Thor Heyerdahl, Leif Erickson, Nobu Shirase and Ferdinand Magellan
Spacecraft Characteristics
Base HullESA Interplanetary Space Vehicle
Width8 meters
(16 with radiators extended)
Height8 meters
(16 with radiators extended)
Drive Type6 ESA improved ion drives (hardtech)
Drive Rating1g acceleration on full burn,
0.1 g in economy mode
Primary ManufacturerEuropean Space Agency, with JAXA supplied Toshiba Electrostatic Stellarator
OwnerEuropean Space Agency
Registry NumberESA-ISV-001 to -004
PurposeExploration, transportation
Primary Crew3 (pilot, copilot, engineer)
Other Crewup to 7 additional astronauts
Operational StatusActive
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This evening, the Thor Heyerdahl, the Leif Erickson, the Nobu Shirase and the Ferdinand Magellan will depart from our depot and will be heading for Saturn.

—ESA press conference on November 10th 2017


While the flight of the Thor Heyerdahl prototype was considered a full success by ESA and JAXA, the flight supplied them with a lot of additional data about the ships system. Based on this data the next three ships became a more modular system to support the planned mission to Saturn.

The Thor Heyerdahl was carefully taken apart while its sister ships were assembled. In April 2017 the Leif Erickson is visiting Venus, three months later the Nobu Shirase is beginning its Saturn flyby mission. When the Thor Heyerdahl's refit is finished, all three other ISVs are back at Nouveau Paris to prepare for the Aurora (Station) mission to the Saturn moon Pan.

On November 10th 2017 all four ships leave Earth together to deliver the crew and the first batch of supplies to the icy moon of Saturn. It takes to ships two month to get to Saturn and back, which is repeated another two times in 2018.

Since the Aurora Station was declared active in late 2018, at least two of the ISVs are either carrying cargo back and forth between Earth and the Station or kept on call for the trip.

Technical Specifications

The Interplanetary Space Vehicles are direct successors of the design of the Thor Heyerdahl, just cut into multiply cylindrical sections connected by docking ports.

The first section is the crew and command module, the only part of the ship that has life support. The section can be used by up to 10 astronauts to fly the ship towards its target, with a maximum life support time of three months.

The second section is a cargo hold, more than 20 meters long and a total of ten meters wide. It can hold up to 80 tons of supplies and construction materials, which allow the ship to transport even bulky space station parts in one piece. The cargo section was not present in the original Thor Heyerdahl.

The third section is a short cylinder which contains the nitrogen reaction mass for the ISVs ion drive. A single reaction mass module allows the ship to fly from Earth to Saturn and back without refueling.

The final section contains the fusion reactor and six ion drives. Data gathered during the flight of the Thor Heyerdahl made ESA to remove the 7th drive unit safe mass for the rest of the ship. The engine section also has a group of three heat radiators, which have to be extended during the flight of the ship.

All sections are equipped with two docking connectors, which allow an ISV to carry multiple modules of all types with it. Of course the last section must contain an engine system.


  • With a full thrust of 1g the reaction mass of the ship will run out within a few days
  • Helium-3 for the fusion reactors is gathered by the Aurora Station on Pan
  • The ion drive of the ISVs is based on the “Ultra-low reaction mass thrusters” designs from the Whole Fenspace Catalog.


The four Interplanetary Space Vehicles are featured in the following stories: