This article originally appeared in Jump Point 6.10.
The Phoenix is a variant of the standard Constellation platform developed as Roberts Space Industries’ first luxury-market spacecraft. When the development of the Phoenix variant was first announced in 2935, it seemed to be an unusual direction for Roberts Space Industries, a company that had made its name offering affordable spacecraft “to the people”. The Phoenix’s origin story is appropriately unusual: the variant project began following the brief success of a Spectrum series called Spacecraft of the Elite. The series premiered in 2932 and showed off top tier luxury spacecraft owned by the rich and powerful, which spawned a ‘custom interior’ design trend for spacecraft. This led to the creation of numerous luxury brands dedicated to enhancing more common spacecraft designs. It also landed at exactly the time Roberts Space Industries’ Astro Development Team (ADT) was studying options for a fourth production variant of the time-tested Constellation.
The development team (led by longtime RSI designer Jules Parliegh), began by taking a stock 2934 model year Constellation Mark III chassis and outfitting it with new interior supports. The final prototype seems unrecognizable when compared to what would ultimately become the first Phoenix, but this test was focused solely on under-the-deck modifications that would go on to support the eventual overhaul. The major challenge at this point wasn’t so much the luxury styling as it was adapting and reworking the ship’s design to support a wider variety of changes. Incorporating the hot tub, later made famous by the variant’s marketing campaign, required a major revision of the stock plumbing and waste disposal systems. The makeshift prototype was also outfitted with improved shields and privacy systems in the expectation that a luxury spacecraft would likely need such protections to stand out in its much more specific role.
With a prototype in hand, Roberts Space Industries turned to another major challenge: how to redefine their workman-like multi-crew vehicle as a luxury object that would appeal to those who would traditionally choose an Origin design. Their solution was as much marketing as design. To make the Phoenix work, the ADT understood that they needed to partner with long-standing luxury brands instead of simply presenting their vision as the ultimate in high-class space travel. To that end, the company brought in a roster of household names known for producing the best of the best:
- Designer Emil Quast, best known for his decadent design of Terra’s ‘Flowhaus’ public assembly building was brought in to design the Phoenix’s luxury interior. ADT designers had initially constructed their own concept plan featuring plush leather furniture and extreme soft lighting. Quast threw out the existing designs, refusing to even look beyond the first page of the plan and instead created the first iteration of the elegant cabin the Phoenix is known for today.
- The Wintle Design Company, most familiar for offering high-end luxury craft goods, was given the task of equipping the master suite and the first version of the hot tub. Wintle spent 18 months researching the creation of what they called a ‘complete sleep system’ to replace the standard Constellation fixtures, aimed at adding every comfort possible to the typically utilitarian process of sleeping starside.
- Kruger Intergalactic was brought back to create an updated version of the P-52 Merlin bundled with standard-model Constellations. Their team developed the high-performance P-72 Archimedes to replace the Merlin, although tooling delays caused initial production Phoenixes to ship with a Merlin instead. While the Merlin was purchased under license, RSI opted to buy exclusive rights to the Archimedes in order to prevent its use by other manufacturers.
- Atuvo, creators of the Foodsparce System, provided a licensed reworking of their signature Atuvo state table and kitchen system. Atuvo’s engineers spent months refactoring their existing food technologies to fit into the small area allowed on the Phoenix due to a contractual obligation to make sure the resources available aboard the Phoenix were identical to those found in the finest kitchens. One partnership did not work out as intended: luxury vehicle builder Kremner Ltd. was charged with developing a replacement for the RSI Ursa Rover. Kremner Ltd. declared bankruptcy in the middle of the development process, forcing the team to scramble to find a replacement. RSI’s own vehicle team ultimately developed the Lynx Rover variant specifically for the Phoenix.
To make the first production prototype possible, RSI gathered all the involved licensees (over one hundred in total) at their development facility on Earth. Representatives from each company were incorporated into the ADT process for the remainder of the Phoenix’s development cycle, allowing them visibility over not just their area of the ship’s design, but to provide feedback on everything else being built. The prototype construction stage took roughly two years and concluded with space trials for a unique variant of the then-current Constellation Mark III. The Mark III Constellation had fewer hull changes for variants than the Mark IV, allowing more custom experimentation during the prototype phase.
The Phoenix development team was also given unprecedented access to the work of the much larger Constellation Mark IV team, with the expectation that the variant would premiere as part of the launch planned for 2942. Delays relating to the Mark IV rework moved the launch to 2944, giving the Phoenix team an opportunity to soft launch the design. Starting in 2941, Roberts Space Industries’ representatives were allowed to offer interested parties Mark III conversions that introduced the Phoenix concept. The Mark IIIs were upgraded to Phoenix status in the lab at Valatie using factory-fresh base Constellations. Only a handful of conversions were constructed, with most purchased by RSI’s trusted partner corporations for executive operations.
Production of the Phoenix variant of the Constellation Mark IV began in earnest in June 2944 alongside a media blitz intended to remind buyers of Roberts Space Industries’ prestigious history. The company produced advertisements featuring their original model Quantum Drive and sponsored multiple documentaries focusing on humankind’s early interstellar expansion. All production model Phoenixes are constructed to base specifications alongside the other model Constellations at RSI’s Albany plant and then ferried to a special facility at Luna for the installation of their interiors and other unique features.
The first Constellation Phoenix sold went to rock star Ellroy Cass. The ship was commissioned by the then-head of RSI Outreach, Thar Obson, and personally delivered to Cass. Orders for corporate executive fleets and private citizens seeking a luxury experience came in quickly, selling out the first year’s production allotment of Phoenixes in a matter of days.
A single ‘centennial’ Constellation Phoenix has been constructed in honor of a 2946 production milestone for the entire Constellation range. This unique Phoenix features a metallic gold livery and an interior exhaustingly detailed in 24 karat gold. This Phoenix was not offered for sale and the only example remains owned by Roberts Space Industries, who have occasionally used it for trade shows and other marketing pushes.
In 2948, Roberts Space Industries premiered a variant-of-a-variant, the Constellation Phoenix Emerald, as competition with Origin’s new model of 600 series spacecraft became more serious. The Emerald featured a ‘lucky’ green paint scheme and a variant interior cabin design. Emeralds were produced in extremely limited numbers and have not become part of the normal production process. Market analysts believe that Roberts Space Industries is happy with the positioning of the Phoenix despite increased competition from Origin and others. Less than one percent of Constellation fuselages become Phoenixes, and although the model generates between five and seven percent of the total profits for the line depending on year, it is expected that the company will continue to produce Phoenixes for the foreseeable future.