This article originally appeared in Jump Point 7.1.
600i-Class Multi-Role Luxury Vessel
The Case For Luxury
The recent launch of the 600i spacecraft line is the result of several years of internal strife at Origin Jumpworks and ultimately stems from a debate about the company’s future. The early 2940s were marked by a massive increase in sales of Origin’s 300 line (the 300i luxury touring craft in particular), which was largely the result of an effort by veteran CEO Jennifer Friskers to reduce prices and increase availability to a wider audience. The campaign paid off in the short term, rapidly increasing Origin’s single-seat market and leading to a three-fold increase in 300-series production. While this success would be more than welcome anywhere in the galaxy, some within the company protested the move as “appealing to the lowest common denominator.” Furthermore, many saw the increase in production and the newly-widespread popularity of the 100 series as evidence that the company was following competitor Roberts Space Industries’ lead rather than keeping to their own path. As sales of the 300 series grew, so did the internal accusations that the luxury brand was losing its exclusivity and that the short-term profits were diluting Origin’s overall cachet.
The battle raged behind boardroom doors for several years until it came to a head in 2943, when the question of how to invest increased revenues from the 300i could no longer remain unanswered. Friskers’ loyalists believed that the push for the 300 should be duplicated with the development of a new line of spacecraft intended to compete with Roberts Space Industries, which had itself just launched a luxury model in the form of the Constellation Phoenix. A group of younger executives, already unhappy with Friskers’ four-decade hold over the company, saw this move as exactly what they feared most: the sea-change caused by the 300 campaign had become a permanent move away from the company’s iconic luxury branding. The fight became briefly public as Chief Financial Officer Trent Goade was quoted in Fleet angrily insisting that his company would “never produce anything like that [expletive] city bus with a hot tub.” The battle was finally joined as the younger executives pitched an opposing project for the same market sector: a multi-crew luxury spacecraft intended for the elite, developed in partnership with tastemaker brands with little or no consideration for the competition.
Although no side of the debate got their own way entirely, favor fell heavily on the revivalists; the new Origin 600i was to be a luxury-focused vehicle targeted well above the sticker price of the RSI Constellation and built without the specific consideration for the alternate role variants that the competition and 300 lineup had so warmly embraced. The project took its name from Origin’s historic 600 series, a line of Earth-built midsize transports the company championed in its early days, with the “i” added as a nod towards the specific luxury designation that had been built up around the current 300 lineup’s flagship model.
The Great Workup
With the set of specifications chosen by Origin’s executives, production of the 600i prototype began in earnest. Thanks to the revenue supplied by the 300 series, Origin’s 600 design team went into the project with the most expansive R&D budget the company had ever approved. The aerospace team was charged with developing a spacecraft with an excess of style that spared no expense and that end users would be willing to pay a premium for. With its expansive budget, the project produced results at a staggering rate. Outsourced partners from around the Empire were brought in early to develop everything from essential ship components, such as custom-fitted weapon mounts, to dealer accessories that ranged from synthetic bedding materials to branded humidors. One R&D project struck gold, hitting on a new ultra-light material that would significantly reduce the overall mass of the vessel.
While Friskers’ faction was unable to secure the low-cost design they had hoped for, her team did have one more ace in the hole: modularity. Per spec, the 600i was to focus on luxury and comfort over optional roles at every turn. It was clear that the first release, already called the Touring edition, would do just that. The design specifications did not, however, prevent the inclusion of modularity. Friskers’ team worked an end run around the board by secretly instructing longtime spacecraft designers loyal to their CEO to plan ways to integrate modularity into the design without impacting the ship’s lines or interior styling. Armed with the same expansive R&D budget, the team added independently-constructed cores which could be focused towards different jobs while still staying within the confines of Origin’s ultra-chic design aesthetic. The 600i would, in effect, have the ability to change its interior and functionality without impacting its exterior appearance. By the time this inclusion was apparent, it was too late to change anything without interrupting the aggressive development schedule. From the first prototype artifact, the 600i would feature the ability to pursue more roles than anyone had expected.
Development of the 600i prototype continued as other parts of the company began to explore the longer-range future for modularity, with a second development team building the experimental Explorer module that was approved for full-scale production. The initial launch would offer both Touring and Explorer models, a decision seen by many stock-watchers as a significant reversal of the “luxury-first” movement that began the project. Thanks to a combination of credits and the expertise of Origin’s in-house development teams, the first flight article 600i was prepared for testing in just 18 months, launching from the New Austin laboratory in 2945 following a successful jump tunnel testing run.
Test pilots discovered that the 600i prototype was the rarest of beasts: an absolute success from the first launch. Unlike almost every other production spacecraft, the 600i was visually indistinguishable from the concept. The ship was found to be as comfortable as intended and generally a joy to fly, with better-than-expected turning and acceleration. What’s more, the Explorer module, which began testing six months later, was found to be genuinely effective as an exploration craft; Origin had produced a ship that would turn typically dangerous jobs into luxury experiences.
The new 600i went into full-scale production for the 2947 model year, supported by an advertising campaign offering the ship as a luxury experience above all else. The Touring version was quickly a success, apparently capturing the zeitgeist with its highly-contemporary design. Perhaps to the surprise of Friskers and her supporters (or perhaps due to her work promoting the 300 series), the Touring sold above expectation. The 600i Explorer was also a hit, with the unusual nature of “luxury exploration” capturing public interest. Production of 600i Explorers was initially low but increased two-fold by the end of the year.
The only major issue with the 600i to date is an ongoing maintenance problem with the ship’s lift systems. The issue came about only after several months of space service, making it more difficult for Origin’s quality assurance teams to replicate. Engineers are currently developing an update which will either repair or replace the unreliable elevators with a simple dealership repair stop. Other systems continue to be highly praised by end users, especially the sleek, strut-free cockpit that offers an expansive view of the galaxy ahead.
The United Empire of Earth has also purchased two dozen 600is, each delivered without window openings, for rumored military conversion. It is not known exactly what role these spacecraft will play as none have been identified by spotters in the two years since delivery. Typical speculation runs the gamut from special operation target ships to armored VIP carriers, with the latter significantly more likely. Origin has remained tight-lipped about future updates to the 600i line. For now, sales of the 600i remain brisk and Origin is said to be particularly excited about the opportunity to celebrate the first new star system discovered by a 600i Explorer.