This article originally appeared in Jump Point 6.04.
Origin 300 Series
POINTS OF ORIGIN
Origin Jumpworks unveiled their X3 prototype at the 2889 Terra Air and Space Show, sending a shock to aerospace watchers and industry insiders alike: a company previously known for fusion engines and industrial transport ships was looking to take on the competitive single-seat market with a bold new aesthetic that looked like nothing else in the galaxy. While only a one-off technology and ‘look’ demonstrator, the reception of the X3 made it clear that the company was capable of competitive single-seat starcraft design and that there was an audience for their new design philosophy: there’s room for style in the vacuum. Emboldened by the public’s reaction to their new charge to combine aesthetic and utility, Origin began the conversion to single-seat manufacturer. There followed nearly a decade of work to develop a marketable ship and expand design facilities and factories for mass production of the final spacecraft.
The X3 programme had been headed by Otto and Andreas Lang, brothers and aerospace wunderkinds who were known for melding form and function. The Langs were not yet 35 when they were recruited from Seal Corporation to oversee advanced plasma manifold development at Origin. It was a position the brothers held only briefly: together the pair threw out the current design and outlined their own more efficient version in the first six months. Thanks to profits generated from that change, within a year they were appointed to head up the highly experimental X3 programme. The ultimate vision, they insisted, was clear from the start: manufacture a single-seat luxury spacecraft that incorporated clean, modern design. “Many creatures create tools,” Andreas would preach, “but Humanity is defined by a more sacred ability to appreciate beauty and to use that appreciation to create art.” It was their calling, then, to design spacecraft that would maintain our innate Humanity as we reached to ever-further stars and expanded beyond the ability to maintain a singular society. In the wake of the X3’s success, each brother built out his own team: Otto, the younger of the two, to shepherd the 200 series observation craft and Andreas to design what the company saw as its crown jewel: the 300 series personal spacecraft.
Andreas stacked his design team with fanatics, idealists after his own heart who believed in making sure the 300’s styling would carry some higher ideal. The resultant team was an eclectic mix: standard ship design specialists focused on areas like power plants, thrusters and life support, while outsiders from other industries were brought in to work on aesthetics, comfort and the general feel of the ship.
Despite all of this, a major factor in the 300’s success came not from the design think tank on the Rhine, but instead from the depths of the United Empire of Earth’s legal system. In 2898, the high court passed down a verdict in Pressman v. United Empire of Earth that allowed civilian craft to use the same speed safety standards that racing ships had been using for years. Pressman argued that with the current advances in avionics, the older safety regulations set by the Department of Transportation and Navigation were an unfair burden for modern pilots. The court agreed and the timing could not have been better for Origin: the 300 would be the first new spacecraft to take advantage of these new speed safety limits. As a result, in 2899, the 300 was one of the fastest ships available in its class. Although RSI, Drake and others quickly followed suit and produced ships that were ‘uncapped,’ Origin won popular acclaim by getting there first.
The first hand-machined Origin 300 prototype (pre-production models lacked the closing alphabetic variant designators such as “-i” or “-p”) took flight at Frankfurt Cosmodrome on August 3, 2897. From a technical standpoint, the first flight was an enormous success: the prototype completed nine Earth orbits without a hitch. Additional early tests rapidly checked off the standard first flight objectives, including the Earth-Luna slingshot and the initial quantum to Io. Inside six months, 300-1 was ready to perform the first jump tests in real space. The only problem: a complete materials manifest of the current metals, alloys and components indicated that the end retail cost of the ship would be over fifteen times that of an Aurora. The company’s board, previously content to let Lang work without restrictions, stepped in. For the next fourteen months, the factions of the company fought a vicious internal battle over the 300’s production model, with a chain of executives resigning in defiance of Lang’s obstinance. Spacecraft designers and outside consultants were tasked with determining how to turn a perfect, expensive prototype into a working production model without sacrificing the soul of the machine. The result of these reworkings was a spacecraft with a sticker price roughly four times that of the contemporaneous Aurora. On December 18, 2899, the 300 series premiered at a special reveal ceremony at Baikonur to incredible acclaim. The combination of its stunning lines and incredible performance won over audiences immediately. The Origin 300 quickly became the ‘look’ of popular spaceflight — a symbol of success and a goal for everyone setting out into the galaxy. While RSI may have offered Humanity an easier path to the stars, Origin offered a collective chance to make that leap in style.
The 300 series launched in 2899 with a single model: the 300i. Andreas was insistent that Origin would begin producing variants in the third model year by designing entirely new models to fulfill different specialized tasks. Origin, remembering the expense of the first prototype and the ensuing battle to lower production costs, balked at the idea. For all of the project’s rhetoric, later amplified by the series’ initial marketing, the company wanted to borrow an important aspect from RSI’s Aurora: a modular space frame designed to easily adapt variants. Like the Aurora, the 300 series would adapt the initial version into a host of different factory models built atop the standard design. By all accounts, the decision to develop variants instead of bespoke models soured Lang on the project altogether. Instead of helming the 2903 model year as previously intended, he built a smaller, separate team to construct the Origin 350r speed model. Not intended for wide sale, the 350r project allowed Lang and his most fervent acolytes a chance to build the high performance ships he desired for the racing circuit.
Over a dozen 300 series variants have been offered since the line’s inception, with the majority being minor, one-off yearly models themed for particular events, such as the Origin 320c “Imperator’s Edition.” However, two design variants have proven so effective that they have become part of the standard production run, receiving the same incremental model year improvements as the base ship. The Origin 315p was launched in 2930 as a ‘pocket explorer,’ an unusual attempt to marry the 300i’s lines with improved power output and a newly-developed scanning package. Despite the odd duck nature of the design, the 315p proved a reliable performer, with much of the success coming because smaller prospecting outfits were happy to have a dedicated spacecraft that could perform just as well, but provide the comfort and style that was often overlooked by other manufacturers.
The second long-standing variant is the 325a dogfighter, generally believed to be the result of a naval contract. No information has ever been declassified on why the UEEN might have utilized a fighting-focused 300i design, but an in-depth analysis of the ship’s properties suggest it was actually first designed as much as a decade before its 2940 reveal. In any case, the 325a adapts the 300i concept into a dedicated combat ship with upgrades to the weapons payload and the addition of a specialized targeting system.
Origin has expanded their production capabilities every year since the 300 launched, using the success of the design to finance more spacecraft that follow the same aesthetic philosophy. From the starter-level Origin 100 series to the beautiful-while-functional 600 ships to the luxurious 890 Jump flagship, Origin continues to adhere to Andreas Lang’s basic belief that the look and handling of spacecraft should speak to our deeper nature.