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A Contact Unit is a type of multi-purpose Culture spacecraft. A related development was the Contact Vehicle.


In addition to General Contact Units (GCU), there were General Contact Vehicles (GCV); GCVs occupied the area between large Contact Units and small Systems Vehicles.[1]

The smallest Contact Unit built by the 24th century CE was the Scree-class Limited Contact Unit. Relatively few were built; the Minds of the Scree-class were regarded as "guaranteed to go a bit mad" due to the extremely small crew size of five.[2] By contrast, an Escarpment-class General Contact Unit of the late-20th century CE carried a crew of 300[3], and the GCU Grey Area of c. 19th century CE was designed for a crew of 300.[4]


Contact Units were equipped with Contact procedures and equipment, which enhanced their information gathering capabilities.[5] GCUs could perform a full scan of a planetary civilization within a few months, in addition to despatching Contact personnel for low-level reconnaissence.[6]

Though not designed as warships, GCUs were nevertheless well armed and capable of very fast travel.[7] GCUs were considered able to "waste planets."[8]

A degree of eccentricity was expected from the Minds of GCUs by their crews.[6]


The Troubadour-class, an early class of GCU, was in service by c. 6th century BCE. [9]

GCUs bore the brunt of the fighting during early years of the Idiran-Culture War as more dedicated warcraft were constructed.[10]

In the mid-20th century CE, a "million or so" GCUs were extant. Approximately ten thousand[11] of these were constructed by the Infracaninophile manufactory at Yinang Orbital.[12]


  1. Matter, chapter 13
  2. The Hydrogen Sonata, chapter 16
  3. The State of the Art, chapter 2.1
  4. Excession, chapter 9.7
  5. Use of Weapons, chapter 4
  6. 6.0 6.1 "The State of the Art", chapter 2.3
  7. Consider Phlebas, The war, briefly
  8. Use of Weapons, chapter 1.Three
  9. Excession, chapter 2.2
  10. Consider Phlebas, chapter 1
  11. "The State of the Art", chapter 3.1
  12. "The State of the Art", chapter 7