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Sulaco (fictional spacecraft)

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First appearance

"Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual"

Conestoga-class light assault carrier

Maximum speed
0.74 light years per sidereal day (269.547 c)

4 assault/cargo shuttles

Auxiliary craft
8 UD-4L "Cheyenne" utility dropships

The U.S.S. Sulaco is a fictional spaceship and important setting in the film Aliens. It also appears briefly in the opening scene of Alien 3, and in the Aliens: Colonial Marines and Aliens Infestation video game that takes place shortly after the events of Alien 3.



The Sulaco is named after a fictional town in Joseph Conrad's novel Nostromo (the name of the ship from the original Alien), and a number of other names in the franchise are based on Conrad's work as well.

Some scholarly research into the symbolism of the Alien franchise has considered it significant that Sulaco in Conrad's Nostromo is the home of the owners of the silver mine figuring in the book, while the Sulaco in Aliens transports soldiers to investigate unknown troubles at a corporate outpost of Weyland Yutani and to protect the investment—drawing parallels between the 'corporate' owners in Conrad's work and the shadowy business entity forming a central part of the Aliens franchise.


The Sulaco is a Conestoga-class starship that transports United States Colonial Marines to investigate the loss of communication with a colony on LV-426 in the Aliens movie. While carrying only a small complement in the movie, and only two dropships, it is noted in other reference material that as a troop carrier, the Sulaco could carry up to 20,000 tons of cargo, with up to eight UD4L Cheyenne dropships and has sufficient life support capabilities for 90 crew and passengers (with up to 2,000 possible in hibernation for short term trips).

After encountering aliens in the colony, only Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), a colonist named Newt (Carrie Henn), Marine Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn), and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) manage to return to the ship. They also accidentally carry along an alien queen, which Ripley ejects into space during the movie's final battle before the survivors enter cryogenic sleep. In Alien 3, a fire aboard the Sulaco leads to the survivors' cryogenic sleep tubes being launched from the ship, with its further fate unknown.


Syd Mead, a principal conceptual designer on Aliens, first designed the Sulaco as a massive sphere, a "heavily armed cargo ship, outfitted to transport material". James Cameron was not satisfied, as having a spherical model move past the lens would have required variable focus; he produced a quick sketch of the style of ship he imagined and noted that he was imagining something like "a forest of antennae enter[ing] the frame, followed by the enormous bulk of the SULACO".

While some claim that the basic shape was based on a submarine, the design has most often been described as a 'gun in space' due to the elongated form resembling the pulse rifles used in the movie—with Syd Mead agreeing that (in addition to Cameron's preferences) this was one of the reasons for the switch from the spherical form. Other film analysts have remarked on how the opening shot of the ship as something sinister and weaponlike presages Ripley's transformation during the movie into a warrior figure, akin to the hardened Marines the Sulaco already carries. The opening shot of the ship travelling through space has also been called 'fetishistic' and 'shark-like', "an image of brutal strength and ingenious efficiency"—while the rigid, mechanic, militarized interior of the Sulaco (designed by Ron Cobb) is contrasted to the somewhat more organic and friendly interior of the Nostromo in the first movie (also designed by Ron Cobb). Other sources have also noted the homage the initial scenes pay to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.

Mead has denied rumors in the fan community that actual scientific research had been done into how a futuristic spaceship might work. As an example, he noted that the idea for the early spherical design had nothing to do with creating centrifugal gravity, as such problems were for storyline purposes assumed to have already been solved by science.

Color and lighting

Several movie academics have remarked on the color and lighting symbolism in the Alien franchise, which often offsets white, strongly lit environments (spaceships, corporate offices) against darker, dirtier, 'corrupted' settings (derelict alien ships, abandoned industrial facilities). These black touches contrast, or even attempt to take over, the purity of the white elements. Others have agreed with this interpretation, and pointed to the Sulaco with its "sterilized, white interior" as representing this element in the second film of the franchise.

Video games

The video game Aliens Infestation features the Sulaco as one of its playable settings where the player is part of a marine unit sent to the ship to investigate what happened onboard after the events of Aliens.

The videogame Aliens: Colonial Marines begins by featuring the derelict Sulaco being investigated by a Colonial Marine search-and-rescue team set shortly after the events of Alien 3. The investigating marines find that the ship has been boarded by scavengers and infested by aliens. Gearbox Software meticulously created the entire spaceship room-by-room.

Scale modelling

The ship has also been built as a scale model by enthusiasts, toy company Aoshima Bunka Kyozai, and model maker Halcyon, with some more detailed versions also produced by small-series/individual commission modelling companies.


Sulaco (fictional spacecraft) Wikipedia

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