So you’ve got yourself a spiffy rocketship and you’re heading out into space. What do you load it up with?
Which things you put on your ship will depend on where you’re going and what you intend to do. There are three basic cases:
1. Short trip: You’re on local patrol and will return shortly to base, whether that be a planet, moon, space station, or carrier ship.
2. Civilization: You’re going somewhere relatively well-established, in which case you’ll be able to pick up supplies along the way.
3. Self-sufficiency: You’re headed off to the frontier where you’ll need to bring all your own supplies for a long duration.
In general, an item that is useful for case (1) is also useful for (2) and (3). Similarly, an item useful for case (2) is likely useful in case (3). However, the reverse is not necessarily true. In this thread items will be listed with the lowest numbered case in which they are useful, and will be assumed useful in higher-numbered cases as well. This means, for instance, that type-1 items are useful for nearly every ship, and type-3 items are only really useful for ships going “off the grid” to rely solely on what’s aboard for extended periods.
For example, a fighter or defense ship only needs a few type-1 items. A cargo freighter plying the trade routes may spend days or weeks in space, and thus will have some type-2 items as well. A prospector ship looking for new mining or colonization opportunities will probably be gone for months, so it carries far more supplies including type-3 items.
Furthermore, items can be separated into various categories based on what functions they serve. Here are a number of items, split into 7 categories and sorted by use case. For the sake of completeness, this includes some things that are likely to be built into the spaceship. It also includes some sci-fi staples that may not be physically possible, or may not appear in any given sci-fi setting. It does not list third-party cargo being carried, as that could be anything.
Fundamentals: Essential components of a working spaceship.
Redundant backup systems
Life support: Necessary or useful for protecting the soft fleshy things aboard.
Oxygen recycling system
Shields and armor
Water recycling system
Convenience: Items one could live without, but wouldn’t want to.
Artificial gravity source
Utility: For getting things done.
External manipulator arms
Fuel synthesizer or scoop
Planetary: For various interactions with planets and moons.
Atmospheric flight wings
Cargo capacity: For transporting various materials safely.
Hermetically sealed chamber
Refrigerated cargo space
Consumable: Things that get used up over time.
Food and drink
Goods for trade
Special purpose chemicals
What else would you put on a spaceship, and in what circumstances?