Starships are subject to a great many stresses: the impact of microdebris on durasteel hulls, the gnawing of parasites such as mynocks on exposed components, and most of all, the simple ravages of time. Many ships currently traveling the spacelanes are decades, if not centuries old. Even if they are spared damage from pirate attacks or the attention of hungry creatures, the fact is that parts wear out and need to be replaced. Even the best-maintained ships can occasionally suffer a breakdown, and all experienced ship engineers maintain a store of the most common ship parts and components aboard their vessels in order to make in-flight repairs or jury-rig malfunctioning devices.
Common components such as varieties of cabling, pipes, ducting, and spare hull plates are always kept aboard ship, as are more delicate items such as plasma phase coils, capacitor bearings, power compensators, and shilo pins, which are always kept on hand by an experienced crew. While not a substitute for the attention of a dedicated repair crew in a shipyard, the clever use of these repair parts can allow a ship to continue the voyage to its destination when an emergency occurs. At a minimum, they can allow the maintenance of life support as the crew signals for rescue. In either case, a good set of ship parts can go a long way toward repairing and restoring a damaged starship and can be the difference between life and death on an incapacitated vessel.