This node is fictional. Refer to Continental Class Space Battleships.
While the main engines generate thrust to accelerate and decelerate the ship, there must also be a means to control her orientation (also called attitude). As a spaceship has got three degrees of freedom, she has got to be able to pitch and roll as well as yaw.
Due to the considerable mass of a Continental Class battleship, even the attitude control thrusters, here called rudder engines, are huge. One pair of electroplasma engines is mounted in each rotating conical pod with a diameter of more than ten metres.
One such pod is situated wherever the pitch or roll axes running through the ship's centre of gravity intersect the hull. Thus, there are the following four rudder engine emplacements:
- Yaw/Roll: port / starboard
- Yaw/Pitch: bow / stern
The pods are not flush with the hull, but slightly elevated to allow the engines to fire freely in every direction. Depending on the orientation of the pod, Between every pair of normal rudder engine thrusters, there is a precision positioning engine or PPE, a steam thruster that can be very exactly controlled; another PPE is mounted in the centre of each pod, pointing outward.
Attitude control is done by turning the appropriate engine pods into the correct position and then firing one of the pods to start the turn. The opposite pod then fires to stabilise the ship's attitude again. In normal flight, the pods are oriented in order to allow both yaw and pitch manoeuvres; the PPEs keep the attitude stable.
Position control and precision manoeuvres (usually needed for rendezvous manoeuvres) are done with PPEs only. A central computer fires all the PPEs, rotating the pods as necessary to achieve the most precise positioning possible. In docking with an installation equipped with the IDS (Instrumental Docking System), a Continental Class battleship could theoretically move along a planar bulkhead at a speed of three kilometres per hour and at a distance of less than ten centimetres without risking to even scratch the metal.