The Eagle Transporter is a fictional spacecraft seen in the 1970s British television series Space: 1999. The Eagles serve as the primary spacecraft of Moonbase Alpha, which has a fleet of them, and are often used to explore alien planets, defend Moonbase Alpha from attack, and to transport supplies and other items to and from the Moon. The Eagle was designed by Brian Johnson who had worked with Gerry Anderson on Thunderbirds in the mid-1960s and had produced the spacecraft for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Eagle spacecraft influenced the spaceship designs of Star Wars and other science fiction films and television series.
The Eagles are constructed by the engineering and technical section of Moonbase Alpha using materials and components either shipped from Earth or manufactured on the Moon. The latter is usually proposed as a rationale for the perceived seemingly endless supply of Eagles despite their frequent losses. At the time of the episode "The Last Sunset", dialogue indicated that there were twenty-eight serviceable Eagles on the roster.
Completely modular, the craft are divided into three basic sections: the command module, the passenger module/service pod, and the superstructure (containing the landing gear, access corridor/galley, aft compartment, fuel tanks and main propulsion system). The command module also has an escape hatch as revealed in the episode "Devil's Planet", although it is unknown whether this is an original design feature or an adaptation that was designed by Moonbase Alpha. The command module of the Eagle can detach from the main body as seen in the episode "Dragon's Domain" enabling it to dock with another compatible craft or for use as an emergency escape capsule. All Eagles are equipped with artificial gravity.
The Eagles are powered by four nuclear fusion rockets and carry fuel reserves for 48 hours (2 days) of flight. Artificial gravity force fields built into the Eagle enable it to accelerate up to 15% of the speed of light, giving it a maximum range (with extra fuel reserves) of several light days. (At 15% of the speed of light, an Eagle would need nearly 7 days to traverse a distance of one light day.) Should there be a need for higher-than-normal velocities, a set of two booster rockets can be fitted to the superstructure to augment the main propulsion system. Under ideal conditions, re-fuelling is carried out in the maintenance hangar at Moonbase; under extraordinary circumstances, provisions for in-flight fuelling are possible.
The Eagle also has the capability to enter the atmosphere of a normal-gravity planetary body, land using its chemically fuelled landing rockets, and take off and return to Moonbase Alpha. The Eagle maintains sufficient fuel for multiple take-offs and landings. Should the craft be required to operate within meta-gravity conditions (take-offs and landings from a high-gravity spatial body), the craft can be equipped with four downward-pointing booster rockets to augment the normal vertical rockets on the craft's undercarriage.
The on-board computer system can handle guidance, astro-navigation, and interpretation of sensor data; for comprehensive data analysis, telemetry is transmitted to Moonbase Main Computer. The craft can also be flown by remote control from Moonbase Alpha.
Although the Eagle was not designed for use as a military vessel, some Eagles on Moonbase Alpha are fitted with a laser emitter as standard equipment and an arsenal of space-to-space missiles. The episode "War Games" suggests that only seven of Alpha's many Eagles are armed at that time. It is demonstrated in the series that Eagles were primarily designed for transport, reconnaissance and scientific surveys. In "War Games" the Eagles are badly outmatched by the Mark IX Hawk, which were designed specifically for combat. The Hawks were faster, more manoeuvrable, and better-armed than the Eagles, although a skilled Eagle pilot such as Alan Carter was still able to destroy several Hawks in the battle to defend Moonbase Alpha.
In addition to the primary weapons mounted on the underside of the Eagle superstructure frame (directly behind the command module)intended for combat or defence when in flight, a retractable laser gun was revealed in Year Two for use when the craft is grounded. This mid-size weapon was mounted on the dorsal surface of the spaceframe and emerged from the girders of the ship's 'backbone'. It can be adjusted to fire in 360 degrees and at numerous angles of elevation. Various pods also carry small arms; a rack of stun-guns and a single laser rifle for the use of crew is mounted by one of the two main hatches.
Eagles are generally flown by two trained astronauts (Eagle pilots) from the Reconnaissance Section; although the craft can easily be handled by a single pilot, the right seat in the Eagle command module is routinely occupied by an astronaut co-pilot, although this varies according to mission profile. Many non-Reconnaissance personnel on Alpha are former astronauts or have received flight training and are qualified to handle the craft. Eagles can also be piloted by remote control from the Alpha command centre.
The model of the Eagle used in filming was built in four scales: by the end of the series, there were three 44-inch (110 cm) Eagle models, two 22-inch (56 cm) Eagles, one 11-inch (28 cm) Eagle, and a 5-inch (13 cm) Eagle. The superstructure framework was composed of copper tubing on the larger-scale models and the command module was vacuum-formed plastic. Compressed freon streams were used to portray the vertical jets used in lift-off and landing sequences and, in Year Two, the exhaust from the main rockets. The special effects team worked in Bray Studios, a separate studio away from where the live action filming took place.
The production team included several experts who later went on to win Academy Awards for Alien (1979) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980):
- Brian Johnson - SFX Designer, Director
- Nick Allder - SFX Director (Year 1), Lighting Cameraman (Year 2)
- Martin Bower - Modeller
The Eagle became an iconic design in the 1970s, and inspired toys and model kits from various manufacturers. Between 1975 and 1980, Dinky Toys manufactured two well-detailed die-cast Eagle toys, each with different modules and colouring. The Transporter was fairly faithful to the version seen on the show, with the exception of the colouring which consisted of a green main body and a white transporter pod. The Freighter pod, while not accurate to those seen on the show, was inspired by the winch pod. The first edition Freighters came with the main Eagle painted a more correct white, while the waste container carrying pod was painted red. In later editions the Freighter Eagle was changed to blue with a white pod. The Transporter retained the incorrect green/white colour combination for the entire run. Airfix released self-assembly model kits around the same time. In the United States, LJN Toys also manufactured smaller versions in the 1970s, and the company Centuri released a rocket-powered "flying" Eagle Transporter kit. In more recent years, toy/model Eagles have been manufactured by other companies, including Product Enterprise and Iconic Replicas.
The repainted Eagle Transporter was used in the 1980s Polish educational TV series Przybysze z Matplanety ("Visitors from Mathsplanet") as the aliens' spacecraft.
The bulk of an Eagle model was seen as the wreckage of an unknown starship in the Red Dwarf episode "Psirens".