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.
An unusual one for me, as I take a crack at an original science-fiction design.
My objective was to get something seriously large, primarily for use in Vue. My thinking is that I notice many great concept art pages have fairly abstract ships that are so big the more distant parts are afffected by haze, giving a great sense of scale. And as volumetric effects are a strength of Vue, I figure model in LW with Vue in mind. In practice this meant:
Keep the number of different surfaces low
Avoid clever effects that I don’t know how to do in Vue, including advanced surfaces
Avoid elements that would give a clear idea of scale, such as windows, hatches, stairs
Make it a long design so it’s easy to get the most distant parts lost in fog
This was based on an image I found, taken from the cover of the March 1961 episode of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
A really unusual shape, making the whole thing look like a cross between a lightbulb and a thermos flask. I suspect it’s meant to be nuclear , which makes standing around the engine area somewhat adventurous.
I was rummaging around my hard disk, and found this project, which I don’t seem to have blogged before…
After I finished Uni, I was a huge fan of 2000 AD comic, which was really hitting it’s stride. Many writers and artists went on to become the best, and best known in the industry, and 2000 AD was original, witty, and utterly wonderful.
There are not many vehicle concepts that really made a mark, but the one I remember best was the Blitzspear of Nemesis the Warlock. An arrowhead, shaped like the characters head, it was menacing, and looked really fast! Here’s my CGI version.
It occured to me that I really don’t remember ever seeing one of those really old pulp SF cover space cruisers done in a modern CGI style. You know, the ones that look like a cross between a Zepellin and an express steam train:
I’ve just finished up “The Satellite”, the original 1930’s design for the Buck Rogers Rocket. References were a bit contradictory, so I would not be surprised if you find some that look a bit different.
Here are some of the more unusual features:
It’s a tractor rocket. By which I mean the rockets are at the front and it is pulled by them, rather than pushed.
It has four retro rocket tubes at the front.
It lands by balancing on it’s tail! Not very stable…
It had four weapons blisters with slots down the side.
I was very interested when fellow IAAA member Ali Ries offered me the chance to use some of her glorious nebula backgrounds. I’m not very good at using strong colour, and this seemed like an excellent chance to get some practice in.
I found a nice starship in the file libraries at Foundation 3D, and set about it.
I used a yellow distant light for the key light, matching the colour of the bright star. In exactly the same position I had a red dome light – dome lights are extended sources, (often a whole hemisphere), my idea was that the red light would produce a subtle warm edge to the shadow borders.
I experimented with a blue fill light, for added colour, but without a blue light source onscreen, it did not look right.
After experimenting with a warmer tone for the side light, I decided to go for some very small limited range point lights, acting like running lights on the ship. I struggled to choose between blue and red, but in the end I decided to do both!
Here are the results:
In case you are wondering, I got the title from a misremembered Hawkwind lyric – I liked the idea of a starship once again receiving the light of a Sun after an incredibly long journey.
This is an alternate design for the ship “Discovery” from the film 2001. In my view it is much inferior to the final version, but this is interesting. This one tends to self-shadow a lot for one thing, which makes it difficult to light. But note that the habitation sphere is identical to the final version used in the film – this element was about the only constant factor in the many design changes.
It is based on sketches in Chris Frayling’s excellent book “The 2001 Files”, and my version incorporates elements from several sketches.
I also did a turntable video of it, to show off the shape.
From other sketches it is clear that there are 48 fuel tanks just under the widest part of the vehicle.