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Lighthuggers were spacecraft that traveled at just below the speed of light, taking months or years to accelerate to their cruising speed. Although capable of extremely powerful bursts of acceleration (at least 10 g without any inertial suppression), when in transit between stellar systems lighthuggers typically sustained an acceleration of 1 g which would enable them to reach 99% of the speed of light in about 1 Earth year.

Generally 3–4 km long, they used Conjoiner drives for propulsion, and were also coated with a thick caul of ice that protected against minor impacts at relativistic velocities and acted as armour against the attacks of other ships. The great size of the lighthuggers enabled them to carry vast numbers of passengers and huge amounts of cargo.

Lighthuggers also possessed a limited repair and redesign capability. They were capable of moving rooms or machinery around within their hulls, or stripping material from one point to repair another. At least some were also equipped with "manufactories", which could build a considerable range of devices, given the relevant specifications.

Their small, point-defense weapons -- ostensibly defensive in nature -- were capable of blasting a 200 kilometre crater in a planet and disrupting weather formations in a fashion similar to a large geological event, such as an asteroid impact or volcanic eruption.

Though originally invented by Conjoiners, most lighthuggers were owned or ruled by their crew of Ultranauts. Ultras, because of their long stretches in reefersleep and constant hopping from one star system to another, were mostly divorced from baseline humanity. They were characterized by extreme modifications, often in the form of replacement or mechanical limbs or even holes right through them. However, Ultras varied greatly as individuals and crews, from ship to ship, each crew having their own preferred lifestyle, ideology and degree of body modification.

By the time of the Human-Inhibitor War, there existed a fleet of lighthuggers that had been upgraded or built from scratch by the human elements fighting the Inhibitors. These ships were far more advanced than the average lighthugger, and were equipped with an assortment of varied and unique technologies, including optimally stealth dark drives that emitted nothing in any detectable spectrum, miniaturized cryo-arithmetic engines which cooled their hulls to make them nearly indistinguishable — in thermal terms — from empty space, inertia suppression machinery that allowed extremely fast acceleration and deceleration, free-force bubbles which absorbed enemy attacks, camouflage screens that aided concealment, and extremely heavy armaments, including bladder-mines and hypometric weaponry.

RS Glossary entry[]

Lighthugger: Any large space vehicle with a relativistic cruise ceiling.
- description from the official RS glossary [1]

Ramliner: Passenger carrying lighthugger.
- description from the official RS glossary [2]

List of known lighthuggers[]

Lighthuggers sorted by name, in alphabetical order.

Name Ownership Associated with Appearances Notes / History
Accompaniment of Shadows Ultranauts TBA Aurora Rising
Becomes part of a crime investigation during the events of Aurora Rising.
Apollyon Ultranauts Forqueray (captain), Roland Childe, Richard Swift, Celestine, Hirz, Dr. Trintignant (expedition to Golgotha) Diamond Dogs
(novella, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days anthology)
Lighthugger of the Roland Childe organised expedition to the planet Golgotha, with its mysterious and infamous Blood Spire.
Bride of the Wind Ultranauts Basquiat (captain) Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Cockatrice Ultranauts Voulage (captain), Weather (former captive) Weather
(novella, Galactic North anthology)
Pirate lighthugger, pursued the Petronel in the novella Weather.
Death of Sophonisba Ultranauts N/A Nightingale
(novella, Galactic North anthology)
Featured in the novella Nightingale.
Equinoctial Ultranauts Rauma Bernsdottir (captain) Night Passage
(short story, Infinite Stars anthology)
A lighthugger commanded by captain Bernsdottir, ferrying Conjoiner passengers as customers. First or one of the first to encounter a Shroud.
Faint Memory of Hokusai Ultranauts N/A Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Galatea Ultranauts Revelation Space (mentioned only) Mentioned briefly in Revelation Space during Volyova's personal investigation into the Boris Nagorny case.
Gnostic Ascension Ultranauts Queen Jasmina (captain/ruler), Grelier (surgeon/torturer), Horris Quaiche, Morwenna (crew members) Absolution Gap Quaiche's original home ship. Destroyed over Hela, where he later decided to settle down and research the moon. Its auxilliary ships included the Dominatrix and Quaiche's own shuttle, the Scavenger's Daughter.
Lachrimosa Ultranauts The Last Log of the Lachrimosa
(short story, Subterranean Press Magazine)
Lark Descending Ultranauts N/A Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Lorean Demarchists Alicia (leader, post-mutiny on Resurgam), Alicia's mutineers from the Resurgam expedition, Dan Sylveste and other Resurgam expedition members Revelation Space Originally the lighthugger of the Sylveste Institute sponsored expedition from Yellowstone to Resurgam, led by Dan Sylveste. (The ship was christened after his grandfather.) Twenty years before the beginning of Revelation Space, Dan Sylveste's wife Alicia led a mutiny that commandeered the ship and left Resurgam orbit for parts unknown, stranding the rest of the expedition on the planet.
Hideyoshi Ultranauts Galactic North Featured in the short story Galactic North.
Hirondelle Ultranauts Irravel Veda, Mirsky, Hirondelle sleeper passengers Galactic North Ramliner (passenger lighthugger) and its crew, featured in the short story Galactic North.
Madonna of the Wasps Ultranauts N/A Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Nightshade Conjoiners Skade (commander) Redemption Ark

Absolution Gap
Prototype for an experimental new class of smaller, but apparently more powerful lighthuggers. Despite warnings, Skade attempts to break the light barrier with this ship, with some unforseen effects and consequences.
Nostalgia for Infinity Ultranauts John Brannigan (captain),
Ilia Volyova, Yuuji Sajaki, Abdul Hegazi (triumvirs),
Boris Nagorny, Sudjić, Sula Kjarval (crew members),
janitor-rats (clean-up pets)
Revelation Space

Redemption Ark

Absolution Gap
"Hero ship" of the Inhibitor trilogy. Closely tied to the fate of captain Brannigan and many of its crew members and passengers. One of its shuttles is the Melancholia of Departure.
Orvieto Ultranauts Orcagna (captain)
male and female Chimerics (crew members)
Pellegrino (shuttle pilot)
Chasm City Featured in the first third of Chasm City, visiting Sky's Edge.
Pelican in Impiety Ultranauts Ormazd (a passenger) Turquoise Days (novella, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days anthology) A century before the events of Turquoise Days, the Pelican visited Turquoise, bringing both benefits in the form of trade and tech exchange, and less savoury elements, such as suspected clandestine activities.
Petronel Ultranauts Rafe Van Ness (captain), Inigo Standish (shipmaster), Weather (captive, honorary crew member) Weather
(novella, Galactic North anthology)
The ship of the main protagonists in the novella Weather. Transporting refugees from Shiva-Parvati, initially pursued by the Cockatrice.
Poseidon Ultranauts Verika Abebi (triumvir) Diamond Dogs (novella, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days anthology, mentioned only) Mentioned by a triumvir from its crew in the finale of the novella.
Sandra Voi Conjoiners Galiana, Nevil Clavain, Felka Glacial
(short story, Galactic North anthology)
The first completed and successful lighthugger. Featured in the short story Glacial and implied to be in development in The Great Wall of Mars. Named in honour of deceased Demarchist leader Sandra Voi by Nevil Clavain.
Scythe Glass Glass, Miguel de Ruyter Inhibitor Phase
Silence Under Snow Ultranauts N/A Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Third Gazometric Ultranauts Heckel (captain) Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Transfigured Night Ultranauts N/A Absolution Gap Featured briefly during the later events of Absolution Gap.
Voice of Evening Ultranauts Moreau (captain), Amesha Crane, Rafael Weir, Simon Matsubara Turquoise Days (novella, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days anthology) The Turquoise government views the lighthugger's crew with great suspicion.
Wild Pallas Ultranauts / Demarchists Uri Andrei Sagdev, Katia Sagdev Dilation Sleep
(short story, Galactic North anthology)
Ramliner (passenger lighthugger) and its crew, featured in the short story Dilation Sleep.
Zodiacal Light Ultranauts (formerly)
Clavain's expedition to Resurgam (later)
Remontoire's group (last known)
Nevil Clavain (captain), Scorpio, Antoinette Bax, Xavier Liu, various crew and mercenaries (human and hyperpig) from Yellowstone, Remontoire (later, while allied with Clavain and co.) Redemption Ark

Galactic North
(short story, Galactic North anthology)
Originally known as the Eldritch Child. Commandeered from Ultras (with help from H) by Clavain, Scorpio et al, for their expedition to the Delta Pavonis system. Carries combat-augmented "trike" shuttles and Bax's private ship, Storm Bird.


  • The scale of a typical (i.e. 4 km long) lighthugger can be viewed on this site, alongside other fictional and theoretical spacecraft for comparison. (If you have trouble finding the ship, simply type 'lighthugger' in the search bar once the images have loaded.)
  • At the end of Redemption Ark, the vast carrying capacity of lighthuggers is demonstrated by Ana Khouri and triumvir Ilia Volyova as they load approximately 160,000 of the almost 200,000 on the world Resurgam onto the Nostalgia for Infinity.
  • The full extent of a lighthugger's manufacturing capabilities is unknown, as they are only ever used in the novels to produce weapons. However, it is implied in Absolution Gap that the shadows' mass-synthesizer technology operated on the same basic principle, and there was little it could not build (up-to and including near-immortal robotic bodies).
  • Despite Skade mentioning to Clavain in Redemption Ark that Conjoiners sold their drives primarily to the Demarchists and never directly to the Ultras, Sajaki of the Nostalgia for Infinity claims to Dan that if he blackballed him among the Ultra community he would be stranded in the Epsilon Eridani system indefinitely -- a statement Dan doesn't dispute, despite Dan being an influential man among the Demarchists. This implies that sometime before 2460 Demarchist society either sold or re-purposed their lighthuggers en masse.



  1. Revelation Space universe - RS Glossary - L,, the official website of Alastair Reynolds
  2. Revelation Space universe - RS Glossary - R,, the official website of Alastair Reynolds

See also[]

  • Flotilla - The fleet of slower-than-light generation starships that preceded the invention of lighthuggers and was used to colonise the planet of Sky's Edge.
  • Atalanta - The Atalanta was an unsuccessful Demarchist project for a prototype ramscoop-powered starship that could compete with Conjoiner-developed lighthuggers.
Civilian shuttles/small craft: Trike | Tug | Cutter | Spherical shuttle | Flotilla excursion shuttle
Police shuttles/small craft: Panoply cutter
Individual shuttles/small craft: Melancholia of Departure (spherical shuttle)
Remontoire's 'Trident' fighter (outrigger fightercraft)
Coalition shuttle | Flotilla delta-winged shuttle
Cutter | "Claw" shuttle | Lighthugger orbital shuttle
Individual atmo-shuttles: Scavenger's Daughter | Dominatrix
Civilian ships: Freighter | Liner | Hospital ship | Lighthugger in-system craft
Police and military ships: Deep-system cruiser
Demarchist military vessel | Conjoiner ''Moray''-class corvette
Individual ships: Bellatrix | Democratic Circus | High Catherine
Nightingale | Storm Bird | Universal Suffrage
Generation ships - Flotilla ships: Santiago, Islamabad, Brazilia, Palestine, Baghdad
Ramscoop starships - Atalanta
Lighthuggers - List (Sandra Voi, Nostalgia for Infinity, Zodiacal Light, Nightshade, Hirondelle, Petronel, etc.)
Alien starships - Void warren ("Caleuche")
Antimatter engines | Ramscoop | Conjoiner Drive | Stealth Conjoiner Drive
Dark Drive | Inertia-suppression Machinery | Cryo-arithmetic engine
Magnetic railgun | Boser | Ack-am | Foam-phase Munition | Pin-head munitions
Camouflaging screens | Hypometric weapon | Bladder-mine

* - capable only of flight in the vacuum of space
** - double as both spacecraft and aircraft, depending on the need