The Rocket Library

In 2018 I was doing an international commute, and wanted something I could work on effectively while travelling. Eurostar is pretty comfortable, (particularly in standard premium), and the new laptop was seriously powerful, but I’ve never found it easy to work with a touch pad, and there wasn’t enough space for a mouse.

 So I came up with the idea of tidying up the various real spacecraft I have worked on, and assembling sets of images rendered perspective free, to a standard scale, which would make it easy to clearly show the different sizes of the various spacecraft.

This soon became the Rocket Library project!

A collection of most of the rockets I have modelled, all done to the same scale.
A collection of most of the rockets I have modelled, all done to the same scale.

(Click for a larger version.) Continue reading “The Rocket Library”

Orbiting the planet Saturn, in ultra high definition

This one was really quick to conceptualise, and took months to complete.

Mainly because I kept trying to cut corners with render settings that were not high enough, or assuming that I could fake a join between runs with different render settings, and it would not show…

Saturn, still image from the video...

Saturn, still image from the video…

Continue reading “Orbiting the planet Saturn, in ultra high definition”

How to do edge renders in Lightwave 3d, a brief tutorial

This is a short blog post, which will describe how I go about edge renders in Lightwave 3d. It’s really easy and I find it a great technique for renders that are not photorealistic.

I am using Lightwave version 11.6, I’m not sure how this works in other versions. But it’s probably almost identical.

What do I mean by edge renders?

This is an effect that runs a line along various edges and boundaries. It can be used to emphasise fine detail, or to give a diagram effect. It works with transparency, and animates nicely.

Here’s an example.

Hale Telescope Edge Render
Hale Telescope Edge Render

Note how features of the telescope are highlighted with fine white lines.

Ready to start? Continue reading “How to do edge renders in Lightwave 3d, a brief tutorial”

An objective system for how realistic / credible a spacecraft is…

I sometimes get into discussions about if a spacecraft design is realistic. These are frequently interesting, but it’s not straightforward. For example, there are serious designs from the early days of spaceflight which we now know could not work. Manned craft without heavy radiation shielding are a common example of this.

On the other hand, you have some fictional craft carefully designed to be as realistic as possible – the vehicles in “2001 a Space Odyssey” are a great example.

So how to handle it when some fictional craft are more credible than serious designs? here’s my attempt at a system, from the most realistic to the least. Comments and additions are very welcome.

1. Real space hardware that actually flew successfully.

Clearly you can’t get more realistic than this!

Example: Saturn V rocket

Saturn V rocket
Saturn V rocket., perspective free views. Render by Nick Stevens

Continue reading “An objective system for how realistic / credible a spacecraft is…”

The Saturn 1B model, Follow along with the build.

I gather from Twitter that some people find it interesting to follow my approach and progress when building a new model. So here’s a blog post where I will show how a project comes together, with lots of illustrations.

My starting point is to gather references, particularly high resolution photos, and plans with dimensions. Fortunately this one is covered in the excellent “Rockets of the World” by Peter Alway. It’s not highly detailed, but I find if you can get the overall dimensions of major features correct, then it’s not too tricky to fill in the rest from good photographs.

Rockets of the World
Rockets of the World

Continue reading “The Saturn 1B model, Follow along with the build.”

The Frank Tinsley “Lunar Unicycle”

I recently came across the Frank Tinsley illustration of what he called a “Lunar Unicycle”, which might be better described as a monowheel.

Lunar Unicycle Illustration
Lunar Unicycle Illustration

Despite the lack of many illustrations, the design seems clear, and I decided to do a 3d version of it in Lightwave. Though I did later find a couple more pictures… Continue reading “The Frank Tinsley “Lunar Unicycle””

The National Space Centre, Leicester

I visited the UK’s National Space Centre, partly to get better references for a CGI “Skylark” rocket, and thought it was worth a blog entry. I’ll be publishing reference photos, for the benefit of other modellers, in a separate post.

It’s located on the outskirts of Leicester, and a bit of a pain to get to if you are not familiar with the local public transport system. Easy to spot by it’s distinctive shape, dominated by the Rocket Tower.

NSC Sign

The National Space Centre Web Site Continue reading “The National Space Centre, Leicester”

Skylark. The most successful rocket you never heard of…

The Rocket

The Skylark was an incredibly successful British sounding rocket, with over 400 successful launches. Despite sounding like the title of an Enid Blyton book, at the time of the final launch it was the longest running rocket program in the world, bar none. First launch was 1957, and the 441st final flight in 2005. Continue reading “Skylark. The most successful rocket you never heard of…”

Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs

Galina Balashova

Before I get started I must give credit. The illustrations here are largely by Galina Balashova. Little known in the west, she was responsible for the interior design of pretty much every Soviet spacecraft. Combining Art and Architectural skills, it was her job to make the spacecraft a productive, pleasant environment.

Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs
Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs in 2017

If you have any interest in this area, the book “Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program” is absolutely essential, and is packed with elegant and informative paintings and drawings. 

Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.
Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.

Continue reading “Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs”