- Radio and radar aerial
- Reserve tanks
- Control cabin
- Living quarters
- Storage tanks, air, water, etc.
- Auxiliary engine propellant tanks
- Air lock and storage compartments
- Vehicle and storage deck
- Anti-radiation shield
- Exhaust nozzle
- Stabilizing fins
- Landing-support fairing
- Shock absorbers
- Passenger air-lock
- Protective-clothing room
- Cargo-loading air-lock
- Air-lock control room
- CONTROL CABIN
- Control desk
- Air-refrigeration plant
- Work table
- Observation equipment
- LIVING QUARTERS
- Electric cooker
- Air purifier
Readers in the US might not recognize the Tintin graphic novels, but everybody in Europe has read them. This nuclear powered rocket was quite well researched for the time. The main engine is apparently a NERVA style solid nuclear thermal rocket fueled with plutonium. The launch site has a breeder reactor used to cook uranium 238 into plutonium for fuel rods. The rocket lifts off and lands with an auxillary chemical rocket fueled by nitric acid and aniline, so as to prevent contaminating the ground with radiation.
The authors of the indispensable Spaceship Handbook did find one minor mistake. The astronauts lie prone on their acceleration couches, which is pretty much the worst position possible (second only to standing on their heads).
The authors of the Spaceship Handbook suggests that this was due to Mr. Rémy misinterpreting the diagram of the Werner von Braun moonship. In that diagram, the crew members who need to monitor the chart recorder are prone, but everybody in their acceleration stations are properly on their backs.
Anyway this is a minor flaw in a design that gets it right.
This is a spacecraft design I made in the mid 1970s when I was in high school. It was for the seminal 4X game Stellar Conquest, and was one of the first few pieces of artwork that I actually got paid to do (not counting political cartoons for the local newspaper). The artwork appeared in The Space Gamer vol #3
While I would change some of the details now, many of the main features I would still stand by. Not bad for a high school student.
Naturally you see even at that tender age I was well aware that rockets were not boats and I knew which way was down. So I have been irritated at media science fiction getting this wrong for a bit over forty years now.
The spacecraft has a spinal mount laser (i.e., instead of mounting a laser on a warship, the warship is built around a honking huge laser). The long hot pink rod is the laser proper, with both ends slanted at Brewster's angle like all good gas lasers. The part in pink is the hollow axial shaft the laser is mounted inside.
Like most gas lasers, the blasted laser beam wants to exit out both the front and back ends. Unlike most gas lasers, the one in this warship is designed so it can select which end the beam emerges from. I postulated a "liquid crystal mirror" because that sounded more high tech than just swapping in a mirror.
In weapon mode, the beam fires upward. The yellow thing is a gas lens to focus the laser beam. At the time I designed this gas lenses were thought to be a good way to focus high energy laser beams without having the beam do horrible damage to the lens. Nowadays this is sort of passé. In any event, I'm not sure the thing needs a lens.
At the top the green sphere is a turret much like the one used on the Airborne Laser project. But much more crudely designed since the ABL project was 27 years in the future and I was a high school student not a laser tech.
One of the do-overs I'm implement would be to make the warship into a Laserstar. Pretty easy to do.
In drive mode, the beam fires downward. Again there is a yellow gas lens of questionable utility. The blue unit is an inertial confinement fusion rocket with the laser beam split into beam-lets that bombard a pellet of fusion fuel from all sides. I swiped the arrangement of splitting mirrors from a diagram of a then current issue of Analog or Galaxy science fiction magazine. But in my drawing things are so cramped you cannot make out the details.
Another do-over I'd implement is making the engine into a magnetic nozzle with bladed structure.
The two-ended laser is the way you get two high powered lasers for the price of one. Which is important since Every gram counts.
There are even heat radiators mounted on the hull. I give points to my teenage self for recognizing the need for radiators. However I take points away since the radiators have nowhere near enough surface area to cope with the laser thermal load.
The spacecraft was a slower-than-light starship, and I figured the Bussard Ramjet interstellar drive (or whatever) would be just so much penalty-weight in combat. So I postulated that the ship would detach from the interstellar drive and leave it parked in a (hopefully) safe place as it leaped into battle. You can see the dotted outline of the stardrive unit in the diagram. This will give the warship much the same advantages and disadvantages of a Traveller style battle-rider (which was about six years in the future when I designed this. It is no surprise that both had the same solution, there really isn't any other solution).
Apparently I also knew enough to add some fundamental items. Life support hydroponics (marked "v"). The hexagon marked "t" is the manoeuvring gyroscope which I mistakenly thought had to be at the ship's center of gravity. And the little room right below marked "aa", the bomb shelter or anti-radiation storm cellar. Very important to protect the crew from solar storms, but absolutely vital if the enemy is lobbing nuclear warheads at you. Another do-over I'd implement is putting the blasted control room inside the storm cellar. Most old NASA Mars mission designs do that, or at least have some rudimentary auxiliary controls present.
Artist Ray McVay has studied realistic spacecraft design in general (and this webiste in particular), and has produced some very scientifically accurate spacecraft deck plans. He has some commercially available plans suitable for use in role-playing-games. This images do not do them justice, you'll have to check out the real thing.
Nightrider is a fascinating novel by David Mace. Nightrider is a military spacecraft with an experimental gravity drive, along with more conventional fusion drives.
In the Nightrider universe, military ships can be easily tracked by their brilliant fusion drive plumes. After each burn, the ship can no longer be detected, however this does not matter since its future posiiton can be easily calculated for any time. A telescope monitors the theoretical position of the ship, watching for any future burns. Whereupon the new trajectory is calculated.
The point is that there are no military strategic surprises. The enemy knows exactly where every one of your ships are, and when they will arrive at their destinations.
Nightrider's top secret gravity drive will change all that. It will allow the ship to make changes in trajectory invisibly, without any bright fusion plumes. Ships so equipped can thrust with fusion drives, the enemy will calculate the future trajectory, the ship will sneakily change their course with the gravity drive, and the enemy will have a rude surprise when you ship appears at an unexpected location. The drive can only accelerate Nightrider 0.25g, but that is plenty. Since it is a reactionless drive, low thrust is not a problem.
Alas, in reality, this won't work. Because there ain't no stealth in space. Specifically because even though there is no brilliant fusion drive plume, the gigawatt fusion reactor powering the gravity drive will emit enough megawatts of waste heat to be just as easily detected.
Be that as it may, the Nightrider is still very interesting in its internal arrangement of deck plans.
This is from a book entitled The Answer to the Space Flight Challenge by Frank Tinsley (1958).
Noted rocket engineer G. Harry Stine designed this vehicle in the early 1950's. He figured that manned space stations would be controlled by the nation that built them. Therefore a scientific station could be instantly transformed into a martial moon at the sound of a trumpet! Horrors! Armed with atomic missiles, they could strike any spot on Earth. What a hideous threat to freedom and democracy the world over.
The space scout is designed to deal with this menace, blowing up hostile stations with atomic missiles before they can strike. Without it, the world stands unarmed and helpless before the threats of a technologically advanced dictator.
At least according to Mr. Stine. In reality it would probably be far more cost effective to just launch flight after flight of surface-to-orbit missiles until the evil space station was vaporized.
The spacecraft flies nose first in space, driven by the liquid fuel rocket engine. It flies tail first in the air, driven by the three jet engines. This means that the jet engine exhaust goes "upward", that is, in the opposite direction of the rocket exhaust.
The jet engines are mounted on "M" shaped supersonic wings fitted with conventional airplane control surfaces. Note that the control surfaces are on the upper edge of the wing, not the lower. The elongated nose cone of each jet engine doubles as a landing leg. Velbor points out that this is a poor design decision. A hard landing will transmit shock directly to the delicate mechanism of the jet engine turbines. They may explosively delaminate, shooting turbine blades at everything in line with the turbine plane. Which you may have noticed includes the fuel tanks.
The tail of the spacecraft is bulbous to increase the heat radiating surface area, and corrugated with liquid oxygen cooling pipes. In other words it is trying to do the same job as the heat shield on the base of the Apollo command module.
The three transparent blisters on the flight deck help the pilot to land by providing full ground visibility via a system of reflecting mirrors.
With the three man crew, two are always on duty while the third sleeps. In combat conditions all three are on duty. The craft is designed for a three-day mission, with a maximum life-support endurance of a week.
Mr. Stine later developed the design further into the "Mars Snooper." This added a petal like shields closing over the liquid fuel rocket engine bell during re-entry, and a more elongated passenger section. One difference is that this design uses a nuclear thermal rocket instead of a chemical one. The reactor also runs the jet engines, which are more like an air-fed nuclear ramjet. In 1971, the Estes model rocket company made a model rocket based on the Mars Snooper. My father had one. I always wondered why the tail fins were "M" shaped.
This is a design for a photon-drive spacecraft, boosted into orbit by a chemical rocket. Note that the designer is a tad unclear on the concept. The photon drive is fed gigawatts of electricty by the fusion reactor, while the poor ship relies upon a crude solar boiler for its internal power. Nowadays photon drives are considered impractical, due to their ridiculous power requirements (three hundred megawatts for one lousy Newton of thrust).
For the diagram to the right:
- Bridge deck
- Cabin deck
- Airtight access hatches
- Retractable solar steam plant
- Electronic navigational and communication gear
- Stores, spacesuits, special gear, etc.
- Breathing oxygen
- Water supply/fusion fuel
- Fusion reactor (quaintly and mistakenly label a "nuclear pile")
- Reactor controls
- Radiation manifold
- Photon drive
- Tripod legs.
In the blueprints above, it shows the command module as being in line with the centrifuge hub. This is incorrect, because it would force the command module windows to be along the sphere's equator. As you can see from the photos the windows are north of the equator.
In these blueprints by Cyrille Castellant, the command module is offset from the hub axis with a slanted corridor. However, the designer makes the pod bay warehouse vertical instead of horizontal.
This marvelous reconstruction is made by a talented CGI artist named Kiyoshi Hiura. Below is the Babelfish translation of the relevant blog post (from Japanese into Broken English) and a translation by Michael Bianco.
The Comet from the Captain Future novels of Edmund Hamiltion is about as scientific as Flash Gordon. The idea of a space pilot pressing their foot on a cyclotron pedal like the accelerator on an automobile is sightly comical. And the electroscope is needed to follow hostile spacecraft by their rocket trail, since apparently nobody had invented radar. But the novels do have an almost "Star Wars" like charm.
Interestingly enough, this design actually has the theatre and dining rooms inside a huge spinning centrfuge, for artificial gravity.
- Pilot and Robot Control Rooms
- Stairway & Corridor Foyer
- Navigation Rooms
- Freight & Storage Sections
- Lifeboat & Launching Tube
- Passenger Staterooms
- Gymnasium & Recreation Rooms
- Fuel Tanks
- Oxy-Hydrogen Mixing Chamber
- Detonator Caps
- Major Explosion Chamber
- Tapered Main Rocket Tube
- Auxiliary Rocket Tube
- Engine Rooms
- Steering Rocket
- Air Conditioning Equipment
- Oxygenation Chamber
- Water Condenser Units
- Magnetic Gravity Rotors
- Theatre & Lounge
- Dining Rooms
- Gravity Main Deck Bearing
- Main Shaft & Elevator
- Auxiliary Blast Chamber
- Insulation Hull
- Atmospheric Rudders
- Flight Deck
- Radio Operator
- Dinning Room
- Passenger Cabins
- Booster rockets for control and landing
- Atomic reaction propulsion unit
- Fuel reserves for return journey
- Luggage hold
- Crew quarters
- Look-out for crew
- Engineer's deck
Not too scientifically plausible spacecraft design, featured in a children's magazine. Not surprisingly it has the "Confusing-a-spaceship-with-an-airbus" fallacy. See the tiny "unmanned scout" on the ship's back? Its a remotely piloted reconnaissance drone. Isn't it cute?