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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 consist of a scattered vessels wandering around on their own, a large and cohesive fleet, and/or huge Planet Spaceships which may in turn cause moments of That's No Moon! for characters in the story.

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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' potential reasons for wandering are many. Some are nomads for purely cultural reasons, while others may be traveling traders and merchants. Another variant is to have them as pirates, raiders and warriors who wander nomadically in search of targets; relatedly, it's common for Planet Looters to be this — once you've stripped a planet bare of resources, there's not much to do beyond looking a new one. Some may be running away from something, or trying to reach their homeland or even a new home, so they need not intend to be nomadic forever, but are still a whole group of people on a very long journey.

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Subtrope of Space People.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (2006): The Citizenry used to be a collective of peaceful space wanderers, whose tradition of abducting/taking a child with them when they encountered new sentient species backfired when they took an Amazon who grew up resentful and forcibly took over and turned them into a planet killing genocidal group.

     Fan Works 
  • Abraxas: King Ghidorah is revealed to be a Space Nomad of the Planet Killer variety — it's been moving from world to world, conquering each one and covering its surface in neverending tempests before moving on. Then it got stuck on conquering Earth.

    Film — Animated 
  • Titan A.E.: After the Earth is destroyed, most humans become wanderers moving around the galaxy.
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     Film — Live-Action 
  • Independence Day: The aliens are like sentient space locusts, moving from world to world and stripping each bare of resources before moving on. It's however revealed in Independence Day: Resurgence that the aliens do in fact have a home planet, whih is actually where the distress signal is broadcast to to summon the Alien Queen and more forces.
  • Wing Commander: The Pilgrims are a group of these, notable for their ability to navigate without the help of computers. They suffer from prejudice and persecution by most of the society, and previously went to war with the human government. It turns out Blair's mother was one. He keeps it quiet due to prejudice, but his abilities definitely come in handy during the film.

     Literature 
  • All Tomorrows:
    • The Qu, who wander between galaxies in vast migrations on a quest to reshape the universe. This is what brought them to the worlds of men, and why they later left.
    • The Spaceborn, descended from those few humans who escaped the Qu invasion by creating hollow, moon-sized Generation Ships and adapting themselves for a life in zero gravity. They spent forty million years hiding in deep space, and after the Qu left they had become too specialized to re-adapt to planetary life.
  • Citizen of the Galaxy: The Free Traders are a Proud Merchant Race who spend their entire lives hopping between planets, buying and selling.
  • The Citizen Series: The Riders are a nomadic hunter-gatherer culture that travel from world to world on mysterious "beasts" that can travel through the Continuum unaided.
  • The Culture: Many people in the Culture live their lives on space craft which travel around, and consider planetary life to be a weird concept.
  • In 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.
  • Great Ship: The eponymous ship 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.
  • 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 each other, 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.
  • Star Wars:
    • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong 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 organic worldships and left to find a new one. After being in transit for millennia, they finally arrive at the Galaxy Far Far Away... and, being the Yuuzhan Vong, promptly try to take over.
    • The Vagaari from Survivor's Quest and Outbound Flight are an interesting example of this, since the Unknown Regions sourcebook establishes that they do have a home world, their nomadic lifestyle is purely by choice. This aspect of their society makes it difficult for Thrawn to decisively defeat them, as the Vagaari fleet can simply disperse and regroup elsewhere. They live as wandering raiders, pirates and slavers, and rule over a sizable portion of the Unknown Regions where they roam unopposed.

     Live Action TV 
  • Firefly: Zoe (at least according to supplemental materials) is the daughter of two tramp freighter crewmembers and spent most of her childhood in space. Mal also counts, after a fashion: He grew up on the surface of a colony world, but after losing his home and family during the Unification War his only home is aboard the Serenity. Lastly, the Reavers are somewhere between an Always Chaotic Evil version of this trope and Space Cossacks, as seen in the Big Damn Movie: They have one region of space that they call home, but travel all over the 'verse looking for somewhere to Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The Travelers. 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.
  • Star Trek: The Voth and the Varro. The USS Voyager spends most of its time traveling through the Delta Quadrant with no fixed base, as its primary mission is to find a way back to the Alpha and the Federation's worlds.

     Radio 
  • The Space Gypsy Adventures: The space gypsies. 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 
  • Eclipse Phase: The Scum are nomadic hedonists who fled from Earth during the Fall and never left their ships.
  • 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), and now roam the Milky Way in immense Craftworlds, Generation Ships the size of small worlds. Staying put is not an option for them — they have too many enemies and not enough numbers or resources to work with — and so they travel and hide their locations.
    • The Tau-allied Demiurg, 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.

     Video Games 
  • Endless Space:
    • The Pilgrims 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.
    • The Vaulters in Endless Space II only narrowly escaped the doomed world Auriga aboard a Generation Ship which was crippled for millennia until a Dust-filled asteroid belt revived the ship and saved them. They start with the "Involuntary Nomads" trait, and a thriving world they can permanently settle is their faction's holy grail.
  • Homeworld:
    • The Bentusi and the Vaygr, 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.
  • Mass Effect
    • The quarians 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 eealen race in the Andromeda galaxy took to wandering the stars and sharing knowledge after their war with the Kett Empire reduced their population to below the point of viability.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: The Luminoth are mentioned in their lore to have been this for a long time before settling down on Aether.
  • Rodina: It's likely that the enemy aliens are this, considering they only exist in ships in orbit and have no cities or structures on any of the planets.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: The Vasari, 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.
  • Star Ruler 2: The Nylli 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.
  • 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.
    • If the Megacorp DLC is installed, the nomads are replaced with Caravaneers, whose fleets make circuits around the galaxy offering trade deals with empires they pass through, periodically returning to a system called "Chor's Compass" to trade with one another.
  • Sword of the Stars: Half of the Morrigi population lives this way. The male half, to be specific; Morrigi culture mandates that male and female offspring be divided into gender-segregated communities in early infancy. Male Morrigi spend their lives from infancy to senescence in space, living aboard nomadic starships which travel constantly from star to star. Female Morrigi are terrestrial creatures for the duration of their lives, raised in full gravity and adapted accordingly to planetary conditions.

    Web Origina 
  • Orion's Arm:
    • Worldships are immense vessels designed to be permanently inhabited — a ship eight kilometers long and with 400,000 permanent inhabitants is considered on the small side — and to move near-constantly at a few fractions of light speed, enough for relativistic distortion not to be an issue. They wander around between star systems, stopping briefly at each port of call to exchange goods and information before moving on. They usually contain entire, self-sufficient environments within themselves and, due to the amount of time they spend in isolation, tend to be home to unique and sometimes bizarre cultures.
    • The Civilization Ships are a particularly notorious example in-universe, being titanically large vessels — 400 kilometers long and 120 wide — built after a disastrous interstellar war to serve as failsafes in case interstellar civilization should ever go belly-up. They're nearly indestructible spaceborne fortresses loaded with sapient and post-sapient inhabitants, alongside immense stores of information and artifacts, in order to be able to restart civilization in case of disaster. There are over a hundred in existence, which travel slowly between the stars — they're way too large to use the wormhole networks most others travel — and occasionally stopping at inhabited system to pick up valuable artifacts and refresh their information stores.
    • The Eh'ern, an alien species from the Triangulum Galaxy, lived for the most part in immense, spaceborne trees that were often fitted with reactionless drives and turned into interstellar ships. These communities tended to become interstellar nomads, moving from star system to star system as the mood struck them.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: In "The Big Tick", the villain-of-the-week is a gigantic spaceborne tick which travels from world to world, sucking each one dry to the core and reducing it to desolation — and it's apparently responsible for destroying the homeworld of Cannonbolt's species very recently.
  • Wakfu: The Eliatropes (and the Council of Six's dragon siblings) were Space Nomads after the exodus from their homeworld aboard their spaceship the Zinit, before they settled on the World of Twelve. Qilby wants his people to return to being Space Nomads so he'll never be bored with having to live on just one world — never mind that the Zinit needs to drain planetary levels of wakfu just to get off the ground.
  • 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.

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