Guardians of the Stars
Shuttles are designed to carry cargo and personnel between relatively close locations within a solar system. Most often up and down the gravity well of a planet, as larger craft often cannot move within an atmosphere. However some shuttles are actually designed to function solely in space, either between stations and ships that cannot dock or two vessels in space.
Shuttles are known by many names depending on the type of activity it is designed for: Spaceplanes, Ferries, Ship’s boats, Cargo Lighters, Landers, Heavy Lifters/Heavy Lift Vehicles (HLVs), Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV), Transatmospheric Vehicles (TAV), Dropships, Transatmospheric Combat Vehicles (TCAV), Boarding Pods/Boarding Craft, and Microgravity Assault Vehicles (MAV).
Dropships and TCAVs are terms usually only applied to military shuttles. Boarding pods/craft and MAVs are also usually restricted to military, mercenary, or pirate forces as well and are very similar. Usually this means that while technically ‘Shuttles’ they are handled differently. Some Civilian shuttles are even equipped with weapons, however civilian refits are usually described as ‘Armed Shuttles’ and not Dropships.
The line between Shuttles and Freighters that can land on planets is often obscure and in fact some Shuttles can travel between planets and are in fact much larger than normal. These massive shuttles may be as large as a Frigate and can be some of the largest craft capable of landing on a planet. The usual rule is that it’s a shuttle if it lacks FTL, though some in system freighters fill the same role. This means their is no firm line between them than the intentions of the designers and manufacturers.