The Nostromo was a transport tug. How much capacity did it have given in was a multi year mission?

  • 2
    I thought it was transporting iron ore. Mar 14, 2017 at 14:03
  • Not according to the novelisation
    – Doctor Two
    Mar 14, 2017 at 14:06
  • 4
    Enough to vaporize an entire franchise...
    – Machavity
    Mar 14, 2017 at 16:33
  • 2
    @Machavity - Aliens was the superior film. It was so good, it's still convincing the studio that they can make a worthy sequel, all evidence to the contrary.
    – Valorum
    Mar 14, 2017 at 16:51
  • 1
    A tug doesn't typically carry cargo itself, it tugs other vessels which may carry cargo.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 15, 2017 at 13:39

3 Answers 3


The original script indicates that the Nostromo was acting as a tug, pulling a refinery that contains two billion tons of "mineral ore". During the journey, that ore would be processed by the refinery into oil products such as petroleum.


The Factory Starship lumbering with the depths of inter-stellar space.

Function: Petroleum tanker and Refinery.
Capacity: 2000,000,000 tons.
Length: One and one half kilometers.

Battered exterior encrusted with dark sludge.

Alien: Shooting Script

Interestingly, in the novelisation, "Two billion tons" is described as the total tonnage of the refinery and its cargo.

Her gaze rose to the rear-facing screen. A small point of light silently turned into a majestic, expanding fireball sending out tentacles of torn metal and shredded plastic. It faded, was followed by a much larger fireball as the refinery went up. Two billion tons of gas and vaporized machinery filled the cosmos, obscured her vision until it, too, began to fade.

Alien: Official Novelisation

This tallies better with the opening of the film in which the cargo is described as "20,000,000 tons of mineral ore". Presumably the refinery itself weighs rather more.

enter image description here

  • a much larger fireball as the refinery went up. A refinery explosion in outer space sadly will be a damp squib. Better not be nearby or your ship will see its exterior ruined with ugly oil and tar spots rapidly freezing and hardening on your well-maintained outer hull. Removing those could cost lots of galactocreds at the nearest W-Y drydocks. Unless you have W-Y "antioil" insurance. Mar 14, 2017 at 21:33
  • @DavidTonhofer Except, surely the oil and tar spots would sublime away over time?
    – Aron
    Mar 15, 2017 at 4:31
  • More likely errors, sorry. It is possible the 2 billion tons are right - and the weight of the Nostromo is a rounding error.
    – TomTom
    Mar 15, 2017 at 11:37
  • The problem with 2 billion tons of oil is that its density is about 1, for a volume of 2E9 m^3, and the length is only 1.5km ... for a frontal area approaching 1.5e6 m^2, say 1 x 1.5km x 1.5km long, practically a cube. At the other extreme, a density of about 10 (uranium ore?) would still give a frontal area of 1.5e5m, or about 400m x 400m (x 1.5km long). All of which allows nothing for interior space, where action can happen. 20 million tons is much more in line with a current oil tanker, scaled up 4-fold in each dimension. Mar 15, 2017 at 12:15
  • 1
    @MikeHarris - "Fusion and solar power ran all of man's machines. But they couldn't substitute for petrochemicals. A fusion engine could not produce plastics, for example. The modern worlds could exist without power sooner than they could without plastics. Hence the presence of the Nostromo's commercially viable, if historically incongruous, cargo of machinery and the noisome black liquid it patiently processed."
    – Valorum
    Jul 11, 2018 at 22:24

The Nostromo has the following capacity according to the script of Alien:

CAPACITY. 200 000 000 TONNES

As the other answer says, in the movie this is changed to "cargo" and 20 000 000 tonnes, implying the actual cargo is that heavy.

That said, it's not transporting crude oil per se. Ripley, from the script:

This is commercial towing vehicle Nostromo out of the Solomons, registration number one-eight-oh-niner-two-four-six-oh-niner.

The Nostromo is a towing vehicle, or hauler, which is transporting an oil refinery. The Nostromo itself is the small ship that lands on LV-426:

enter image description here

This huge thing is the refinery it's towing:

enter image description here

We don't know how much oil it holds.

  • 2
    @DoctorTwo Valorum's answer is better IMO!
    – tobiasvl
    Mar 14, 2017 at 14:30
  • 3
    "This huge thing is the refinery it's towing:" Phew, I finally understand (and I can rest in peace): all these years I was wondering "How the hell the (remaining) crew intended to seek and capture the Xenomorph on such big ship???" Mar 14, 2017 at 18:00

Of course it could also be carrying 200 million tonnes.

Screen showing 200 million tonnes capacity

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