USS Sulaco was the 13th starship of the Conestoga class operated by the United States Colonial Marines. Sulaco held a reputation as the most unlucky Conestoga ship in the fleet, being involved in docking accidents, fires, attacks and a record number of friendly fire incidents.
Sulaco is a Conestoga class starship, thirteenth of its class, originally designed as a troop and logistics transport. By 2179, these ships had been converted into a rapid-response military transport, with orbital bombardment and fleet support capabilities.
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, Sulaco carries two UD4L Cheyenne dropships 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 paraphernalia, 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. 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.
The USS Sulaco was involved in a major operation on the planet Linna 349, where it was struck by two ASAT missiles — the only fleet vessel to be damaged while in orbit. The Sulaco sensors detected the launch flares from the ASAT's and launched a couple of decoy ballutes, then the Sulaco maneuvered as one of them, the bluff works partially as two of the missiles went for the decoys, but the other two struck the Sulaco's cargo hangars, detonating fuel and stores. The fire was controlled by opening the hangar doors and venting the atmosphere and cargo. This incident gave the vessel something of an unlucky reputation amongst the USCM, a reputation that was fortified when the ship was later involved in a docking accident at Gateway Station that caused the loss of five crew members. It was even suggested that the Sulacos reputation led to most crews simply outright refusing to use the ship.
Mission to LV-426
was dispatched to LV-426 under the command of Lieutenant Gorman following the loss of contact with the colony of Hadley's Hope. Upon reaching the moon, the small contingent of Colonial Marines and advisors on board deployed to the planet's surface aboard the dropship Bug Stomper, leaving the Sulaco in orbit on automatic pilot. Following the discovery of a Xenomorph infestation at Hadley's Hope and a disastrous ambush that decimated the Marines on the surface, the Sulaco's backup dropship, Smart Ass, was readied, fuelled and brought down to the surface via remote control by Executive Officer Bishop, allowing the few remaining survivors to be evacuated.
Upon returning to the Sulaco, the survivors discovered that the Xenomorph Queen from Hadley's Hope had stowed away aboard Smart Ass. Ellen Ripley engaged the Queen in the Sulaco's hangar bay in a Power Loader used to load ordnance onto the dropships, eventually ejecting the Queen into space through an airlock. The sole surviving Marine, Corporal Dwayne Hicks, sent a distress call back to the USCM before the remaining personnel entered hypersleep.
On the return journey to Earth, the Sulaco was intercepted by the USS Legato and illegally boarded by Weyland-Yutani PMCs with the intention of discovering more about the Xenomorphs and what exactly had happened during the ill-fated mission. The PMCs tried to capture Hicks, Stone and Turk inside the hypersleep chamber. Instead, stray gunfire from a PMC's M39 hit the Facehugger attached to Ripley, spilling the Facehugger's blood causing an electrical fire in the ship's hypersleep chamber and Turk was knocked into Hicks' open cryotube and sealed inside. Due to the fire The occupied cryotubes were jettisoned in a Type 337 EEV, which subsequently crash-landed on Fiorina "Fury" 161, killing both Newt and Turk, damaging Bishop further and leaving Ripley as sole survivor.
Return to LV-426
The Sulaco was later boarded again by personnel under Michael Wayland's command and returned by them to LV-426, where it was apparently used as a confined environment in which to study the Xenomorphs. The ship was eventually discovered by the crew of the USS Sephora, who had been sent to investigate the events on LV-426. As Sephora Marines boarded the Sulaco, it became apparent the Xenomorphs being studied on board had escaped confinement and overrun the ship. Various sections of the ship had been turned into localized Hives where many of the Colonial Marines were cocooned and impregnated with Chestbursters.
As the Colonial Marines from the Sephora attempted to combat the situation, surviving Weyland-Yutani personnel used the ship's weapon systems to open fire on the Sephora, instigating a pitched orbital battle. The Sephora was ultimately destroyed in the surprise attack, with the resultant explosion heavily damaging the Sulaco as well, leading to its ultimate break-up in LV-426's upper atmosphere.
A massive Xenomorph infestation is discovered inside the ship and several Marines are killed in the initial onslaught. While investigating the ship, Corporal Winter, Private O'Neal and Private Bella Clarison discover Weyland-Yutani PMCs are now in command of the Sulaco and have been breeding Xenomorphs on board for study.
- Lieutenant S. Gorman - A09/TQ4.0.56124E3
- ECA L. Bishop - A17/TQ2.0.35117E5
- Gunnery Sergeant A. Apone - A19/TQ4.0.32751E8
- Corporal Dwayne Hicks - A27/TQ4.0.48215E9
- Corporal C. Ferro - A71/TQ9.0.09428E1
- Corporal C. Dietrich - A41/TQ8.0.81120E2
- PFC W. Hudson - A08/TQ1.0.41776E3
- PFC D. Spunkmeyer - A23/TQ6.0.92810E7
- PFC J. Vasquez - A03/TQ7.0.15618E4
- Private M. Drake - A23/TQ2.0.47619E7
- Private R. Frost - A17/TQ4.0.61247E5
- Private T. Crowe - A46/TQ1.0.98712E6
- Private T. Wierzbowski - A14/TQ8.0.20034E7
Syd Mead, a principal conceptual designer on Aliens, first designed the Sulaco as a massive sphere, a "heavily armed cargo ship, outfitted to transport material". James Cameron was not satisfied, as having a spherical model move past the lens would have required variable focus; he produced a quick sketch of the style of ship he imagined and noted that he was imagining something like a "a forest of antennae enter[ing] the frame, followed by the enormous bulk of the SULACO".
While some claim that the basic shape was based on a submarine, the design has most often been described as a 'gun in space' due to the elongated form resembling the pulse rifles used in the movie - with Syd Mead agreeing that (in addition to Cameron's preferences) this was one of the reasons for the switch from the spherical form. Other film analysts have remarked on how the opening shot of the ship as something sinister and weapon-like presages Ripley's transformation during the movie into a warrior figure, akin to the hardened Marines the Sulaco already carries. The opening shot of the ship traveling through space has also been called 'fetishistic' and 'shark-like', "an image of brutal strength and ingenious efficiency" - while the rigid, mechanic, militarized interior of the Sulaco (designed by Ron Cobb) is contrasted to the somewhat more organic and friendly interior of the Nostromo in the first movie (also designed by Ron Cobb). Other sources have also noted the homage the initial scenes pay to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.
Mead has denied rumors in the fan community that actual scientific research had been done into how a futuristic spaceship might work. As an example, he noted that the idea for the early spherical design had nothing to do with creating centrifugal gravity, as such problems were for storyline purposes assumed to have already been solved by science.
- Sulaco is named after a fictional town in Joseph Conrad's novel Nostromo (the name of the ship from the original Alien), and a number of other names in the franchise are based on Conrad's work as well.
- Gameplay in Aliens: Colonial Marines takes place aboard the Sulaco. In the level Battle for Sulaco the Sephora was destroyed after the Sulaco weapon systems were activated by Weyland-Yutani PMC soldiers, finally crashing to the surface of LV-426 in the level Sulaco Falls along with the Sulaco.
- Sulaco and Sephora can be seen burning on the surface not far from Hadley's Hope in the level No Hope in Hadley's.
- Sulaco also appears in the game Aliens: Infestation in orbit around LV-426 as the Sephora arrives. Gameplay is played aboard as well as other locations including Fury 161.