space tug n.

a small powerful spacecraft designed for short-distance tasks, such as maneuvering other vessels, pulling freight ships, etc.


  • [1933 ‘E. Binder’ Murder on the Asteroid in Wonder Stories June 74/2 page image

    They would clamp his little boat onto a huge-engined space tug-boat.]

  • 1939 E. E. Smith Gray Lensman in Astounding Science-Fiction Nov. 46 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    His ship, a stubby, powerful space-tug with an oversized air-lock, was a used job.

  • 1940 ‘S. D. Gottesman’ King Cole of Pluto in Super Science Stories May 100/2 page image C. M. Kornbluth

    Reeking with oil and dressed in the rags of an outlaw space-tug’s crew, he passed into the dismal underworld as one of its own creatures.

  • 1942 E. F. Russell Describe Circle in Astounding Science Fiction Mar. 130/2 Eric Frank Russell

    Martiacast VXV calling Vanguard. Can now observe theStarider. You've permission to enter the sphere of Mars to make contact with vessel. Are ordering out space tugs.

  • 1943 ‘W. Stewart’ Opposites–React! in Astounding Science Fiction Feb. 96/2 Jack Williamson bibliography

    ‘Also, Commander,’ the Earthman added, ‘I'm expecting to sight a small space tug, the Goodby Jane. Unarmed, but very fast.’

  • 1980 W. B. Hendrickson, Jr. Russians Ahead of Us? in Amazing Stories Nov. 23/2 page image Walter B. Hendrickson, Jr. bibliography

    A space tug or space crane…would then herd the modules together, docking them to form the Kosmograd.

  • 1997 A. C. Clarke 3001: Final Odyssey i. 7 Arthur C. Clarke

    The message from Earth had taken six hours to reach the space-tug Goliath, here beyond the orbit of Neptune…

Research requirements

antedating 1939

Earliest cite

E. E. Smith, in Astounding

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a 1943 cite from Jack Williamson (writing as "Will Stewart") 's "Opposites--React!".
Mike Christie submitted a 1942 cite from Eric Frank Russell's "Describe A Circle".
Fred Galvin submitted a cite from a 1997 reprint of C.M. Kornbluth's 1940 story, "King Cole of Pluto". Jesse Sheidlower verified the cite in its original publication, in Super Science Stories, May 1940, under the pseudonym S.D. Gottesman.
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1933 cite from Eando Binder in the form "space tug-boat".
Jesse Sheidlower submitted a 1939 cite from E. E. Smith in Astounding.

OED has a single quote from 1961, supporting a broader sense.

Last modified 2021-08-18 14:11:01
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.