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Shuttlecraft Dropship


Orbital shuttle from ISV Venture Star to Hell's Gate

  • Dorsal hardpoints for Hydra machinegun nests or automated turrets (optional)
  • 80.03 meters wide
  • 101.73 meters long
  • 8.0 meters high
  • Slowest speed is 130 knots
  • 35,000 knots when leaving Pandora's atmosphere
Behind the scenes
First appearance


The Valkyrie SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit)-TAV-37 B-class shuttlecraft (Na'vi name: shah-tell) is a delta-wing trans-atmospheric vehicle primarily used to transport personnel, equipment, supplies and the harvested unobtanium mineral between the Hell's Gate mining base on the exomoon Pandora and the ISV Venture Star in space orbit. The Valkyrie has an operational range of 2000 kilometers in the Pandoran atmosphere and a typical payload of 60 armed infantry troops, 25 AMP suits and 25 metric tons of cargo, with a maximal payload capacity up to 35 metric tons.

Valkeryie cockpit

Valkyrie cockpit

The two Valkyries carried by the ISV are used to ferry personnel and cargo between the orbiting spaceship and the Pandoran surface, and are mainly docked at the Hell's Gate base on Pandora. A third older Valkyrie craft was re-purposed to serve as automated gas harvesters, skimming through Polyphemus' upper atmosphere to obtain anti-hydrogen and deuterium for refueling the ISV. Each Valkyrie has VTOL capabilities for easier landing onto the planetary surface, thanks to thrust vectoring provided by two pairs of pivoting turbojet nacelles mounted into the delta wing, and its powerful fusion powerplant provides enough energy to power the engines for hours at a time, which allows the shuttle to function as a low speed aerial platform for exploration and survey roles. As seen in the picture (upper right), a Valkyrie is landing at Hell's Gate.

Atmospheric Descent and Ascent[]


The Valkyrie in flight.

Valkyries enter the dense Pandoran atmosphere after decoupling from an ISV from a low delta-v orbit. As it hits the Pandoran atmosphere, the hypersonic re-entry speed generates shock heating. Carbon fiber thermal tiling on its ventral surface protects the Valkyrie during the descent. As it decelerates in the upper atmosphere, it vectors towards its only landing site, Hell's Gate. At 10,000 feet of altitude, where the atmosphere is thick enough, the air-breathing turbojet engines are activated. They provide forward propulsion until the shuttle is on the final approach to RDA's Hell's Gate mining base. When the mining pit is spotted, the engines are transitioned to VTOL mode, which slows the shuttle and allows for better maneuverability. As the shuttle approaches landing, it hovers on thrust from the four rotatable wing engine nacelles, then settles to the ground as thrust is throttled back.

To take off and reach orbit, the shuttle hovers up vertically and the wing engines are then vectored slightly aft to begin forward acceleration. The shuttle then transitions to wing-borne forward flight at 130 knots, with the wing engines now aligned longitudinally for full forward thrust. It then accelerates to supersonic speed on the turbojet engines. As it approaches Mach 3, hypersonic inlets open and the Valkyrie goes into scramjet mode and steadily accelerates at 3G's to Mach 7, and then transitions fully to the two large fusion orbital engine for the final climb to orbit.

Valkyrie Destroyed

Valkyrie 16 is destroyed.

Despite their civilian nature, Valkyries also feature modular dorsal hard-points for the installation of automated defense guns or manned gun-nests for use as defensive weapons during atmospheric flights into hostile territory. It has also been surmised that the durable airframe, coupled with the powerful lift capabilities of the Valkyrie, would make an excellent ad-hoc bomber should the situation demand such tactics. But, due to the machine's poor agility, it requires a fleet of escort aircraft for protection.

Operational History[]


Two Valkryies served on Pandora, descending from the ISV Venture Star. During the Assault on the Tree of Souls, one of them, Valkyrie 16, was improvised by SecOps as both a carpet bomber for delivering two jury-rigged "Daisy Cutter"-style packages of repurposed mining explosives to the Tree of Souls and, to help ensure the success of its bombing run, an aerial gun platform, with its dorsal hard-points and cargo bay being fitted with SecOps-manned Hydra machine gun nests to protect the undefended civilian aircraft from aerial attack, but was destroyed when rogue avatar driver Jake Sully boarded its wing and threw a grenade into the intake of the left forward engine, causing the Valkyrie to lose balance and bank into a dive, and the already armed explosives packages slid back inside the cargo bay, crushing the drop personnel. The left wing of the Valkyrie was then sheared off as it collided with one of the floating mountains; it then nose-crashed into the ground, the explosives detonated inside the Valkyrie on impact, causing the entire ship to disintegrate in a massive fireball. After the battle ended in a Na'vi victory, the remaining second Valkyrie was seen being used to ferry the remaining base personnel of Hell's Gate back to orbit.

Avatar: The High Ground[]

After the RDA's departure, the Na'vi kept the second Valkyrie. Jake used it to take Na'vi and humans to space to train them in space combat, making boarding exercises on an Unnamed ISV. In 2169, after the RDA returned to Pandora, Sully took his commando to space. He and Neytiri boarded the Venture Star and, after negotiations failed, he ordered his group to attack, but they failed, and had to use the Valkyrie to return to land.[1]

The rebels hid that Valkyirie, piloted by Wu Mingxia, in a cave, but later, during a rescue mission to rescue Jake Sully and his family, it was shot down and crashed to the water, sinking quickly. However, almost all the crew and passengers survived.[2]

Avatar: The Way of Water[]

After the RDA returned to Pandora, they used several Valkyries to retake Hell's Gate.[3] They too established a new colony, Bridgehead, at least one Valkyrie was seen over the colony, indicating that they were still in use on the planet. Now, however, all were heavily armed, making them de facto warships.[4] That shuttle was used to transport Quaritch and his recom squad there.

Technical Details[]

The Valkyrie is roughly four times the size of the 20th-century Earth space shuttles. Because it uses fusion engines, the Valkyrie can redirect its containment fields for active EMF damping, so it can function very well in the high magnetic field areas of Pandora. It does not rely solely on passive shielding. The Valkryie cargo bay can hold troops, AMP suits, all necessary ammo and gear, plus larger payloads such as specialized electronics and lab equipment that cannot be manufactured on Pandora. The inside of the bay looks much like any terrestrial cargo airplane, with netting to secure payloads to the walls, rollers built into the floor to facilitate unloading, lock bars for the AMP suits, and seats for RDA security forces. But its most important mission is the transportation of refined unobtanium from the surface of Pandora back to the orbiting ISV. Without this capability, there would be little or no human presence on Pandora. It is also the only possible ride back to the mother ship, and thus the one link with the long journey back to Earth.

The Valkyrie rides on a plume from its dual-mode fusion engine so powerful that it is visible at night from Hell’s Gate almost all the way to orbit (though it disappears over the horizon before orbital velocity is reached). Though it reaches orbit in less than ten minutes, the Valkyrie requires an additional six hours to maneuver to rendezvous and hard-dock with the ISV. Despite its size, the Valkyrie's mass is relatively small due to a fuselage fashioned from extremely strong non-metallic composite material. The material has high tensile strength, but only one quarter of the weight of the permalloys used in previous shuttles. The superstructure uses carbon nanotube composite in key locations to maximize stability and help conserve fuel.
 The two exhaust nozzles of the orbital engines face aft, and the engine nacelles are heavily shielded from the cargo bay. The least radioactive sections of the reactor directly parallel the bay. There is a rear ramp that lowers for the unloading of large vehicles and AMP suits.
 There are fold-down stools with passive restraints for the individual passengers which line both long walls of the bay. The AMP suit racks are located in the middle of the cargo bay in a double row. The cargo bay is a double deck design which allows the ISV cargo modules to be stacked two-high inside the bay. Cargo modules are transferred from the shuttle to the ISV by a large robotic arm which travels along the longitudinal spine of the starship on a mobile transporter base.


  • In the Vietnam War, BLU-82B/C-130 (commonly called "daisy cutter") were delivered by C-130 Hercules transports which were dropped out of the cargo ramp and descended by parachute to create instant landing zones ("LZ"). The resulting explosion left a distinctive crater in the shape of a daisy. The Hercules was used to "shuttle" supplies to forward bases such as Khe Sanh. Machine guns were sometimes mounted on the cargo ramps of HH-53 "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters in Vietnam and now CV-22s for self-protection in the absence of dedicated gun turrets.
  • There are some similarities to the Valkyrie from Warhammer 40k.
  • The craft also bears similarities to the real world XB-70 Valkyrie, most notably the delta wing design.
  • The Valkyrie bears a vague resemblance to the Pelican dropship in the Halo games. Ironically, the Pelican was inspired by the dropship in Aliens, one of James Cameron's other films.



  1. Avatar: The High Ground part 1-2
  2. Avatar: The High Ground part 3
  3. Avatar: The High Ground part 3
  4. Avatar: The High Ground part 2
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