Space Nomads

In science fiction, when a space-faring race has no planet/asteroid etc to call home, and lives solely in space craft, they may be space nomads. Note that to be a true example of this trope the people in question have to actually move around once in a while (ie: be nomadic). If they're just living on a space station that is, well, stationary, then it's not a true example of this trope. The craft where these people live may form part of a Space Navy or Standard SciFi Fleet, and/or may be huge Planet Spaceships which may in turn cause moments of That's No Moon! for characters in the story.

In real life, there are whole groups of "Sea Gypsies" such as the Bajau people, and so this trope can fit well if Space is an Ocean. The Space Nomads may be all that's left of the Precursors, in which case it's likely they suffered some sort of Götterdämmerung but obviously weren't fully wiped out. Space Nomads commonly appear in Space Operas. The Space Nomads may be running away from something, trying to reach their homeland or even a new home, so they need not intend to be nomadic forever, but they are still a whole group of people on a very long journey.

Subtrope of Space People


  • Some humans become this in Titan A.E. after Earth is destroyed.
  • The aliens from Independence Day are like sentient space locusts, moving from world to world.
    • Though it's revealed in Independence Day: Resurgence that the Aliens do in fact have a home planet this is actually where the distress signal is broadcast to, to summon the Alien Queen and more forces

  • The eponymous ship in the Great Ship universe is a Jupiter-sized starship housing billions of transhuman beings that paid for their way onto the Starship Luxurious; either for only a short duration, a circuit around the Milky Way, or, for a much larger price, permanent residence. While the majority of the residents have planetary holdings, one race lost control of their own system and have a large community on the Great Ship. The Remoras, a Human Subspecies residing on the ship's outer hull, rarely enter the ship proper and spend their entire lives on the hull or in the space immediately around it.
  • The Yuuzhan Vong from the New Jedi Order were like this for much of their history; after their home galaxy was completely devastated during a massive war, they loaded their entire population onto massive worldships and left to find a new one. After being in transit for millennia, they finally arrived at the Galaxy Far Far Away... and, being the Yuuzhan Vong, promptly tried to take over.
  • The Free Traders in Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein are a Proud Merchant Race who spend their entire lives hopping between planets buying and selling.
  • In the Zones of Thought novel, A Deepness in the Sky, the Qeng Ho traders are a loose collective of interstellar traders that travel via slower-than-light Ram Scoop-powered Sleeper Starships. The Qeng Ho hold that if they start to use the local time system (days/months/years) instead of their UNIX-time based system (seconds, kiloseconds megaseconds, etc), they've been in the system for too long.
  • In Invasion: Earth, both alien races turn out to be this. They are The Remnant of two once-powerful interstellar civilizations, who were at war with one another. Presumably, the two civilizations destroyed one another, and the survivors banded together and now travel through space in what's left of their fleets, looking for more primitive races to scam for resources.

Live Action TV
  • The remnants of the humans from the 12 colonies in Battlestar Galactica (2003).
  • The Voth and the Varro from Star Trek. The USS Voyager doesn't count though, since the crew isn't a race, and the rest of the Federation are based on planets back home in the Alpha Quadrant.
  • To a lesser extent, the Reavers from Firefly.
  • The Travelers in Stargate Atlantis. They refuse to settle down due to the ever-present danger of the Wraith, who destroy all advanced cultures. In their first appearance, they kidnap Sheppard in order to use him to reactivate an Ancient Aurora-class battleship. Not to use a warship but to keep their increasing population on the huge ship.

  • The space gypsies in The Space Gypsy Adventures. Though recent persecution from the Federal Alliance has led to many of them in prison camps or hiding among planetary populations. Main characters Gemma and Damien tend to spend much of their time at the Drakester spaceport on Zenophon, seeing how it's outside the Alliance's jurisdiction.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40,000 has numerous examples.
    • Craftworld Eldar became this after the core worlds of their empire were destroyed by a huge cataclysm (the hedonism of the Eldar gave birth to a new Chaos God called Slaanesh who likes to eat Eldar souls), but not the Dark Eldar who live in the city of Commoragh in a the Webway, or the Eldar Exodites who have re-colonised new planets.
    • The Tau-allied Demiurg also, who are expies of the Bentusi. They're not even thought to have a homeworld, and the vast majority of their species lives on gigantic spaceships, seeking out asteroids to mine. That said, they do colonize worlds on occasion, if the mining is particularly good.
    • The Nicassar, another Tau subject species, are this as well, by virtue of being insatiable explorers and obsessed with traveling.
    • Orks only stay on a planet long enough to crush all opposition, steal the weapons, enslave the remaining population, and build themselves new spaceships so they can repeat the process.
  • The Scum in Eclipse Phase are nomadic hedonists who fled from Earth during the Fall and never left their ships.

Video Games
  • The Bentusi and the Vaygr from the Homeworld series, as well as the Hiigarans (the protagonists) during the first game. In Homeworld 2 the Hiigarans had settled down on Hiigara and reclaimed their empire and so no longer count as a race of Space Nomads.
    • The semi-canonical Expansion Pack Homeworld: Cataclysm could possibly say the same about the Somtaaw, whose entire Kiith left Hiigara in two huge command ships in order to become Asteroid Miners. They could return to Hiigara and settle down, but there is little for them there, as smaller kiithid have virtually no power on the homeworld.
  • The Vasari from Sins of a Solar Empire who only briefly take over planets to strip them of resources before leaving again. If you play as the Vasari Loyalists this is even reflected in the game mechanics where you can move all your planet-based facilities such as resource gathering, research and ship-building onto your capital ships and become a fully mobile force.
  • The Quarians from Mass Effect are a perfect example of this trope. They're even based on the real-life Romani people (gypsies), who were historically a nomadic folk that migrated from India to Europe. If you make the right choices in the third game, they return to their original homeworld and settle down.
  • The Pilgrims from Endless Space have taken up a nomadic lifestyle to escape the United Empire's oppressive regime. Thanks to their friendship with the advanced alien Sophons, and their understanding of Endless technology, they've been able to travel vast distances with ease and transport entire planetary populations. Both their religious and scientific goal as nomads is to find the lost homeworld of the Endless, Tor.
  • It is likely that the enemy aliens in Rodina are this, considering they only exist in ships in orbit and have no cities or structures on any of the planets.
  • The Nylli of Star Ruler 2 do not inhabit planets, and instead reside solely in space, either in orbital habitats or in their absolutely massive motherships which moves between solar systems, seeding planets with habitat constructors.
  • The Luminoth from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes are mentioned in their lore to have been this for a long time before settling down on Aether.
  • In Stellaris one may encounter nomads who peacefully wander through space. Once contact is established they can put you into contact with other empires they encounter.

Western Animation
  • Wander over Yonder: The titular Wander goes from planet to planet helping those in need, and has no known home or planet to call his own. He typically spends the night on whatever planet he is on, or even in Lord Hater's ship sometimes.