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AAT181 (circa 2013-2063)
When it was decided to replace the TTA Colonial I, a completely different mode of operation was required. Whereas the Colonial I required huge amounts of fuel to escape Earths gravity, the Colonial II was to operate entirely in space, just on the edges of the atmosphere. However the problem remained how to get the cargo and passengers from Earth to orbit. Avery Astronautics stepped in to provide the solution: a reusable surface to space transporter with a high degree of flexability. The AAT181 was born in August 2013, six months before the first Colonial II became operational.
These early loaders were launched into space with the aid of disposable booster rockets fitted to the sides of the ship, the ship's upward trajectory aided with a 'skÔ-jump' to help the ship's ascent. Once in orbit, the centre passenger pod/cargo section could be delivered to the Colonial II, allowing the rear engine section and front command module to detach and re-join together. The ship then glides back, its decent slowed by retro rockets, through the atmosphere to a landing site. The centre modules, in part to the fore-sightedness of Avery's designers, can be linked together to form habitable structures and space bases. Many of these structures can still be seen in orbit around a large number of systems in the Federation.
Over the years the AAT181 has earned itself a number of nicknames, mainly due to its limited manuverability in atmospheric decent and its prolific lifting ability: 'Dump Truck', 'Magic Bus' and the 'Flying Brick' are amongst the most popular. AAT181's also provided an easy way for passengers to reach first the lunar and Mars bases by piggybacking onto a Colonial II, the passengers then transferring to the transport for the long journey from Earth. This early passenger system is covered in more depth in the TTA Colonial II section.
The AAT181 found itself invaluable during the Proxima Wars providing the heavy lift capability when the TTA Colonial III and IV entered service and should see some years more service before it is replaced. This particular illustration shows an AAT181 with the four booster rockets fitted carrying two cargo pods, leaving Alpha II's surface in 2047, just before the outbreak of the Proxima Wars.