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Ship classes are often grouped together to simplify description.
The type of ships being used play the largest role in combat strategy, as fights between different classes of ships can become severely lopsided in straight contests of power.
There are two main groups: the largest combat ships are known as capitals (M1, M2, as well as the M7), and the smaller ones (M3, M4, M5) are fighters.
These are the original classifications, which have been added to over time. In between those two also exist the medium sized M6 corvettes and and M8 missile bombers. A term coined here to describe those two sizes not fitting the accepted groupings' descriptions is escort ships.
In the course of traveling the X-Universe, ships are often damaged, be it by weapons fire, hull-eating nebulae, or collisions.
The most immediate solution is to exit the vessel and repair it with a Repair Laser which is part of standard space suit equipment.
The other option is to limp back to a shipyard for more extensive repairs.
Equipment lost/destroyed to damage will have to be reacquired.
The player can eject the ship's SETA, eject the ship as an astronaut, and collect the seta device. The player can then use SETA when out of ship.
To repair quickly, use bore fire to fire the Repair Laser while holding down the SETA key.
Non-Capital ships sold from shipyards are designated with S, M, and L.
These designations typically denote different equipment packages included in the sale.
As the details of each ship vary the most reliable way to determine differences is to look at the detail screens the shipyard posts.
Keep in mind that these differences are only there for convenience's sake. You can always (and may frequently have to) outfit ships by transferring shields, upgrades, and weapons to them after purchase, and there is no advantage to buying an “L” model, other than having shields already added for you. The game does not even remember what model you purchased past the point of purchase.
You may likely wish to purchase only S model ships when you have stations of your own, or can easily purchase lower-priced weapons and shields.