A Space Hulk is a massive conglomeration of lost ships and wrecks fused together. They drift in and out of the warp through space and during the millennia the lost ships join together into one enormous body. Many times they are so huge that they have their own atmosphere and gravity. Since the hulks often exit and re-enter the warp seemingly at random, searching or traveling in them is dangerous in the extreme.
The Imperial Navy, and all Imperial forces and authorities as a whole, have standard orders to survey such objects and to report their location. The hulks consist of ships and items of technology millennia old and the recoverable technology can be of immense value to the Imperium, and especially to the Adeptus Mechanicus, thus elite Imperial forces are sent aboard to clear out infestations. Depending on the strategic situation (availability of troops, proximity to vital Imperial star systems, safety margins, etc) Space Marines are sent to purge the hulk of any alien infestations.
Space hulks are dangerous, as many times they are used as means of transport by certain unsophisticated factions. The Orks, the Genestealers, and the Chaos renegades use them occasionally to invade other worlds. As the warp jump of Space Hulks is essentially made in a random direction this gives them the advantage of surprise.
Therefore the mission of boarding space hulks is extremely dangerous and normally entrusted to Terminators, the Chapters' most experienced elite who are heavily armed and armoured. In some cases this is an impossible task, due to too-powerful enemy resistance, too few available Imperial troops, too close to vital systems, etc. In such cases the bombardment and total destruction of the hulk is the only viable alternative.
Notable Space Hulks
|Devourer of Stars||Used by Angron to invade Armageddon during the First War||[Needs Citation]|
|Alveus Alpha Alpha Sextus||The Hulk that bore the Orks to Armageddon during their first invasion.||[Needs Citation]|
|The Brokenback||The Hulk that serves as the Soul Drinkers Chapter's Fortress Monastery||The Bleeding Chalice (Novel) by Ben Counter, [Needs Citation]|
|Sin of Damnation||The Hulk assaulted by the Blood Angels in Space Hulk (Board Game) and Dark Angels in Space Hulk (video game)||Space Hulk (video game)|
|Judgment of Carrion||The Hulk that appeared in the Aurelia Sector in the Second Aurelian Crusade carrying crucial Blood Ravens artifacts within.||Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising}|
|Spawn of Damnation||A hulk overrun with genestealers and Orks which menaced several Imperial Worlds, until it was interdicted by the Reclaimers Chapter and Commissar Ciaphas Cain.||Duty Calls (Novel) - Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium (Omnibus) by Sandy Mitchell, Chapter Three, pg. 280, Endn. 1;|
The Emperor's Finest (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell, [Needs Citation]
|Monolith of Woe||A hulk controlled by the Lords of Decay Chapter, currently pursued in the Mentieth sector.||Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 21|
|Bringer of Sorrow||Boarded by Dark Angels from a transport ship named the Vengeful Blade. Captain Ares, and sergeants, Gabriel, Michael, Uriel, Chammuel, Zadakiel, Jophiel as well as full Terminator squads boarded the Hulk||White Dwarf 199, pgs. 29-35|
|Hunter of the Void||Appeared next to Macragge, The Will of the Emperor was dispatched with several terminators squads including Commander Troilus of the Ultramarines, sergeants: Notaras, Gorius, Gladius, Adrianus, and personal body guard Constantius, Primus||White Dwarf 200, pgs. 85-91|
|Messenger of Woe||Appeared 1 light-year from the Space Wolves home world of Fenris. Wolf Lord Keurl Ironfang and squads of Wolf Guard Terminators including sergeants Gunnar, Vulpen, Grendel, Loki accompanied him on-board.||White Dwarf 201 pgs. 49-55|
|Revenant Rex||An Ork-controlled Space Hulk responsible for the destruction of an entire elite 1st Company of the Crimson Consuls.||The Long Games at Carcharias (Short Story) by Rob Sanders|
|Unnamed Hulks||Appeared near Septimus 5 carrying artefacts dating back from the Dark Age of Technology. The Dark Angels Terminators including a large contingent of Librarians boarded the hulk and encountered large groups of Genestealers and Psychic hybrids.||White Dwarf 133 pgs.35-38|
|Appeared near Perdus Magnus system; Blood Angels Captain Barik boarded with several squads of Terminators and faced off Genestealers and hybrids.||White Dwarf 137 pgs.42-50|
|Appeared near the Space Wolves Base 10709 around the Star of Fenris. Captains Huron Tem and Vortigern (4th Company) as well as Sergeants Capel, Luther, Faust, Horst, Gunnar, Alric, Volund, and accompanying squads of Terminators boarded and fought Genestealers and Psychic hybrids.||White Dwarf 147 pgs.56-71|
|Delivered a Genestealer force that assaulted The Imperial Battlecruiser the Sword of Halcyon. Sergeant Lexon (a lone survivor) of the Blood Angels managed to reach the Imperial Battle Barge Mayan, and mount a counter attack with the support of Blood Angel Terminator squads and sergeants Jacta, Lionus, Vetora, Laora, Veila, Tullar, Fultun, Marius, and Sparta.||White Dwarf 203 pgs.33-43|