In contrast to the recently completed Very Large Deep Range Exploration Vessel analysis, I'm evaluating the Dolphin as a small exploration vessel. "Everybody knows" that the choice in this matter is supposed to be the Diamondback Explorer-- but I disagree. I've flown the DBX, I've made my farthest jump (209ly) in one, I made my first trek to Colonia in one, and it's a fine little ship. But it's not for me. As I pointed out with my choice of the Orca for DW2, squeezing out meals from tubes for six months and using prepackaged alcohol wipes as the sole method of bathing while my bare ass is pressed against a clammy bulkhead gets real old. Do I NEED the S-K espresso maker? Do I NEED the actual bed? Doesn't the bare minimum of a can of Aganippe Rush and a sleeping bag velcroed to the wall do the job just as well? Ergonomics is an important and oft-neglected field of study and pilot fatigue is an ever-present danger-- so yes, I do need those creature comforts because I, a creature, need to be comfortable while doing my work! Bread yes, but roses too!
I don't need the DBX's large hardpoint. I don't need any hardpoints, really, and now that Saud Kruger graciously permitted owners to rip out passenger cabins without voiding the ship's warranty, I can shove a huge FSD booster in there and really put some legs on this mammal. I don't need anything more than a class 1 repair limpet controller and a class 2 AFMU, which leaves just enough space for a SRV bay, scanning equipment and cargo racks. Simple.
The reason for such a small craft is that while larger craft excel at supporting long expeditions, finding a suitable landing area for a craft with a huge footprint is difficult. A smaller craft can get into tighter spaces and land on smaller spots. So I may not be heading into the complete unknown with this Dolphin, but I can head into the barely known for a closer look. Not so much into the black but into the gray.