Lockbolt Station: space station design for SF novel

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by lizzienewell, Jan 16, 2016.

  1. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    station (640x480).jpg
    I'm halfway through drafting a science fiction novel called Lockbolt Station, and I'm thinking about the design of the station. I'll probably model it as some point, and it will appear in drawing/painting on the cover of the book. With the Firefly series I liked how the set design/spaceship design related to the plot. In watching we know where we are in the ship and where the characters need to go to do something.

    I'd like to have a similar relationship to plot and setting design in this book. I did the sketch after writing this message.

    Here's what I have about my space station. It's a Standford Torus(wheel shaped) which spin to create artificial gravity. I found a website, http://www.artificial-gravity.com/sw/SpinCalc/, which calculates size and rotation speed to produce natural feeling gravity. My station has a diameter of approximately 2 km and spins at a speed of a little less than a rotation per minute. It's made of nano-assembled fullerines and is self-repairing. People live and work on the inside of the rim, with the hub of the station perceived as up.

    Initially, the station was established as a base for space mapping explorations. It's not near a planet but orbits a star which is located near the warp rift. In my universe, superluminal travel occurs through this rift which meanders through space not through wormholes. The station is located to take advantage of the local characteristics of the warp rift instead of being located near mining or population centers.

    After a period of exploration, the station was converted into a Fed-Transit shipping hub. The resemblance to Fed-ex is deliberate. Freight comes to the station aboard space container ships. The freight, usually entire containers, is moved to different ships and sent out for delivery. The freight usually isn't take to the rim. It would be complicated and it's unnecessary. So the container ships are docked in zero-g. When the station was a research base, ships were docked at the rim. When the function of the station changed, a huge non-rotating dock structure was retrofitted onto the station hub.

    So think of the station as a big wheel on an axle which is the trunk of a Christmas tree. (The jelly beans in the photo are ships.) To connect ships to the axle the most efficient layout would be a Christmas tree shape with branches connected to the axle as pentagonal whorls. The docking structure would be conical in shape would give distal ships more docking space. I think the docking tree might be too big in the sketch and the branches should be angled.

    Sometimes freight needs to be moved to the rim so that the containers can be opened up and the contents sorted or inspected. To do this the container is moved along the branches of the docking structure to a clutch mechanics at the hub. (in the sketch the clutch is blue)The container capsule enters the clutch which spins to match the speed of the station. The container can then be moved along a spoke to the rim. The movement of the capsule must be careful coordinated with counterweights and movement of ballast so that the station doesn’t wobble, speed up, or slow down. If this were mishandled, the people on the rim would get motion sickness and barf. Although I'm not sure the wobble would be large enough to have this dramatic result.

    What do you think? Would inept freight handling cause widespread upchucking?

    Occasionally entire ships are docked on the rim. which would allow people to live and work aboard the ship with gravity.

    I think the station has eight spokes because this would be the simplest for handling counterweights. Four of the spokes in a cross shape are bigger with two of them, opposite each other used for freight movement. There corresponding cross spokes are used for counterweights. As freight goes down, a counterweight in the opposite spoke is also lowered to maintain the center of gravity. Other counterweights are raised on the cross spokes to maintain angular momentum. The other four spokes are used for passenger elevators (lifts? I'm not sure if I should use UK or US terminology) These spokes probably have conduits for power and communication lines. The power plant (probably fusion or fission) is at the hub opposite the docking tree. In the sketch its blue and behind the wheel.

    I think axes of the station is oriented perpendicular to the sun with the docks on the dark side. This would allow the sunny side to have solar collectors and mirror to direct light into the station for growing plants. I could put Christmas tree structures on both sides, the sunny-side all solar collectors. I'm not sure if this or a power plant would be a better solution. Maybe I'll just call it the power plant an not bother to say if it's a large array of solar collectors or if it's a nuclear plant.

    Another question is the number of rings. Maybe interior ring for movement of ballast and a ring given over to plants for oxygen and food production. This might be algae tanks. It might be possible to use the algae tanks as ballast. The tanks might be used as fish tanks to raise tilapia. The algae might be bio-engineered to produce sugar and carbohydrates which are then fermented for large amounts of beer.

    The station might use biological metabolism for self-repair. This might be a better way of handling power than burning something or busting atoms. If power is handle with metabolism, the power lines on the station might be veins carrying sugary fluid(sap?) not electric lines. Electricity would be generated only when needed. Movement of parts would be handled with artificial muscles not with servo motors.

    Oh wow! I just figured out a plot issue. If the station us using biological metabolism (Calvin cycle) then it has mitochondria. What if the mitochondrial DNA of the station matches the mitochondrial DNA of my heroine? Her mother was the genetic donor for the station. Either that or she was the genetic donor. Which means that the station is family to Dr. Clark.
    Wow! It's such a help to try to explain something to someone else. It makes a huge difference.

    Book description:

    After a test run of her ship’s new auto navigator, Dr. Ellen Bernoulli-Clark returns to a space station dramatically changed. The research station has been transformed into a Fed-transit shipping hub. Judging by the changes, centuries have passed. Surely her two young sons and their father are now dead. While scavenging to survive, she’s taken in by five men who have sought political asylum in space after challenging the matriarchy of their home planet, Fenria. Among them is Turi Idylko, maritime ship’s navigator. Dr. Clark fits Turi’s ideal of an attractive woman, an intelligent and confident scientist. He’s set on impressing her with his navigational skills and so win her love. Working together, Turi and Dr. Clark seek to determine the fate of her family and, in so doing, precipitate a revolution in space-faring social structure.
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  2. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    I think I would have the ships dock to more robust structures, and articulating arms to move about the sealed containers. Using the design you have show, shipping could be moved by magnetic fields, if it orbits a star, a massive Solar Collector would be almost crazy not to have. At the far end of the station, all the dangerous stuff needed to run it could be mounted in such a manner that it could be jettisoned. Then of course, are all the small maintenance ships, bots, etc, going around and repairing things. All these things add possible story lines. Just thinking out loud.

    A biological ship is interesting, research "Fluidics" for control. Problem with a biological ship is it could get sick and die.
  3. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    @zathros : Are you psychic? This is exactly what I had in mind! :)

    Ths structure should be a bit stronger and less fragile (thicker branches). The solar panels could look like leaves on the branches; it would be a great sight when the station is changing position, unfolding its leaves and angling towards the sun. :)

    Remember the Voyager from Star Trek? She had gel packs to control the main computer systems. These were half-organic and self-repairable, and if I remember correctly, they were affected by a virus of some sort and actually got ill in one episode.
  4. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    Lizzienewell, do you have a .DXF model or other CAD based model of this? It could be easier to post ideas. If the Sun had some kind of desolate large planet orbiting it, it would have a LaGrange point which would keep the station positioned. This could add potential plot arcs. The station rotating at the speed would cause virtually no getting used too. Going from weightlessness to normal gravity would be a health requirement.

    I think the mass of any ship hanging off the end of such a long pole would cause fatigue, probably where it's attached to the main shaft, as that would be the end that could not flex, the ship and other end of the docking pole could flex together. :)
  5. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    Thanks. I describe the structure as having gantry cranes to move the containers. I have difficulty visualizing proportions because the station is so big. Maybe there should be some girders to support the branches. I might think of them as resembling radio towers.

    The station isn't all that biological, but there's going to be discussion of if she's sentient or not. The mitochondria is the biological component. They would be used to metabolize sugar for nano-assembly and contraction of artificial muscles. The sugar could be produced by algae or some sort of chloroplasts in the solar panels. Choroplasts are the cellular structures which store convert sunlight to sugar. It seems to me that handling energy this way would be the safest and most efficient.
    I don't think there would be an aging problem other than maintenance. Trees can live for a very long time. I figure this station is about 400-500 years old. I'm figuring that station has nanobots and microbots doing much of the maintenance along with a self-modifying program directing repairs.The thinking out loud thing is a great way to come up with ideas.

    The plot I've got is that Humboldt Institute which built and ran the station faced a hostile takeover by Federated Space Transit Authority. Fed-transit is a semi-governmental agency with a monopoly on space travel and communication. Humboldt wasn't happy about giving up their research station. Konrad Rodriguez, the last Humboldt commander of the station, died defending it against the Fed-Transit takeover. Dr. Clark, the heroine, was Konrad's lover. She was an instructor of astronautics for Humboldt. Her ship was sabotaged, by the future CEO of Fed-Transit, sending her 300 years forward in time. Oh dear. Explaining these things gets complicated. The station has been functioning in Dr. Clark's absence. I'm going to work it out that Dr Clark is legally the commander of the station. She does some serious housecleaning and sends Fed-transit packing, or at least renegotiates the lease agreement.
    If her mitochondrial DNA matches that of the station, it gives her a stronger claim to being the commander. It also plays on her sense of obligation to the station. It would mean that the station may be her closest living relative. Also her lover died defending it.

    The plot requires that Dr. Clark has access codes to the station's maintenance program. She'll probably take control of the station by locking the clutch mechanism so that no one can go in or out. The station can withstand a siege. I'm not sure what they will do if Fed-transit sends battle cruisers.

    Fluidics look interesting. I just might have to incorporate the idea. The heroine is Dr Ellen Bernoulli-Clark and her love interest is Venturi Idylko, so I've got a fluid dynamics theme going.

    I'm not sure how the ships are powered. They have electromagnetic thrusters and warp drives. Maybe this station isn't a fueling stop, but purely a place to transfer freight. No. The docking tree needs to have some sort of refueling setup.

  6. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I'm in the sketching on a napkin phase of things. The station has a sophisticated AI system for keeping it positioned. This is essential to the plot. A Legrange point might make sense but I think mentioning it would be outside of the concerns of the plot. Since there isn't gravity the fatique would be due to movement of the ship while docking more than dangling. The problem I'm knotting my head around is the most efficient configuration of docking sites in order to move shipping containers from ship to ship and for storage of containers. I'm thinking some sort of pentagonal arrangement. Asside from structural problem, the above sketch is showing a serious of progressively smaller pentagonal whorls. I think this would maximize the number of docking locations but it may be more important to consider gantries and movement of containers.
    thanks for the help. I've been hauling a sketch pad around to draw pictures.

  7. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    Revell-fan, I don't recall that about Voyager. The repair of this station will be semi-organic. I think the programming will be hexadecimal since DNA is coded as base four and the carbon used to make polymers has four electrons in the valance level. The docking structure added later has decimal programming with pentets instead of bites. Fed-transit did this to maintain propitiatory control and because they're the bad guys.
    The panels unfolding that way would look great. I've been thinking about it for another story which never quite came together. It was about an abandoned AI station which looks like a chrysanthemum. It never came together but some of the ideas seem to be showing up with this station.

    I'm thinking of having a stray bullet pierce the skin of the station from the inside. The chief engineer will just about come unglued. Guns are a very bad idea on space stations. I was befuddled by the guns aboard the Serenity in Firefly. Oh well it was a great show despite the plausibility issues. When my station is shot she'll produce a viscus fluid containing nanites which will ooze like sap to plug the hole. It will probably also spray out with the escaping air until the hole is plugged.

    The illness of this station has to do with the human population which is inbred. She(the station) has a symbiotic relationship with her humans. She can't do all of the repairs herself and she likes people. They give her purpose.

  8. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    Here are pages from my sketchbook. I was at a boring presentation so I started drawing floor plans as well. I like sticking an icosahedron out on the end of the docking structure just because it looks like a virus casing and because I like icosahedrons.
    20160117_6244 (427x640).jpg 20160117_6246 (427x640).jpg
  9. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    The LeGrange points are important because a station in such a spot would need very little, if any, energy to hold it in that position. The LeGrange point between the Earth and the moon, the one on the opposite side of the moon, and the one on the opposite of the Earth all are being explored as locations for real space stations as they are on the edge of the gravity wells, and are virtually balanced the the associated masses.

    Give me some dimensions, a cross section, hand drawn is fine, and the over all diameter, I can use parametric scaling, and produce you a quickie Render of your station, that you could draw off, and be able to rotate it for you if you wanted to "see" it in a different way.
  10. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I haven't figured out the cross-section. I might have to set this project aside for awhile. Drat! I've got it as fifth priority in my project queue. Thank you for the info on LeGrange points. I might slip it into the story.

    Here's the opening paragraph of the story with the first description of the station.

    <Dr. Ellen Bernoulli-Clark activated electro-magnetic breaking thrusters as her ship hurtled toward the station. The force of de-acceleration pressed her deep into her seat as if it were heavy gravity. She glanced at the navigation screen. The station was located further along its orbit than she’d expected. Taking a ship through warp always involved some time dilation. Judging by the station’s position, her dry-run of the newly installed auto-navigator had taken three months, not just a few days as she’d planned for. She made corrections to her course and hailed the station. “Scout ship Emma Dean Powell on approach.”

    The station didn’t respond.

    Ellen hailed again. “Humboldt Station, do you receive?”

    ....The view screen, set on telemagnify, showed the familiar nesting rings of the station and its eight spokes, four of them substantial, the other four only visible as strands of light against the blackness of space.>
  11. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    lizzie, I hope you don't mind the liberties I took but I was playing around with Rhino, and thought of doing a quick and dirty Render of my idea of what your station would look like. Just thoughts, not even recommendations. Just musing and amusing myself. The funny little things are some Starships I banged out.

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  12. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    Just a small fleet of Starships arriving. ;)
  13. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    That is so cool! :) :)
    For gantry cranes, it looks like a crane could rotate between the four ships docked on the same whorl. To move from one whorl to the next, the crane would move along the axis. Maybe there should be a ring around each whorl so that multiple ships could dock on each whorl and for storage of containers. Or maybe each whorl can rotate to bring ships on different whorls close together. I have the north side of the station (north in terms of spin) It's the side opposite the docks. Hold out right hand with thumb(north) toward the blue power plant. The fingers show the direction of spin. I describe the north side of the station directed toward the sun. This allows the entire north side to be used for solar collection. The dock goes on the backside away from the sun. Orienting it this way also eliminates light blinking through the portholes as the station spins. If the dock were on the sunny side, the station would go through the shadows of the dock and that would cause blinking sunlight. If the station axis is horizontal to the sun, the solar collectors would have to track the sun. It would add a lot of moving parts.
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  14. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    Arms sliding up and down the poles sticking out of the main shaft, should have multiple articulations. This way dangerous cargo, could be handled along and placed in ships without ever entering the station.

    If you would like me to model something more detailed, give me some drawings, and I can use them to make the station you see or are forming in your mind. I would not preclude very thick strong cables cap[able of articulating or becoming rigid. This is easy to do with electro-magnets and fluidic controls. Fluidics are nice as they are impervious to any electro magnetic pulses, and by changing the plates, and size of venturis, you can change the strength allocated to each unit. This was from a long time ago, they are much sleeper and as liquid does not compress, the controls are very precise. They scale up great, I can imagine a huge one of these crawling all over the station to do whatever is necessary, each end plugging into ports, strategically placed. ;)

  15. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    That might work nicely. I don't think I need anything detailed. It might derail me from the requirements of the story which are already complex. I've got three different cultural/technological systems which are largely incompatible. The docking structure represents the system used by the bad guys. They're noted for graft, corruption, and greed. Often their technology is shoddy because they value money more than good design. They use base ten programming with date in pentets instead of octets which is why I'd like to put five spokes on each whorl. The habitation wheel has an earlier and more elegant system using hexadecimal. The alien system is coming from out planet in the form of five men using telechirics (remote-hand technology). They have robotic interfaces implanted in their brains which allows them very precise control of drones, ROVs, and other remote control devices. They're using a dozenal system and have the coolest robots/drones/ROVs. I have them poised to take over the station. They're in a good position for mediating between the other two systems. I've got one of the men ready to take over docking operations. He's a maritime boatswain with expertise in rigging and docking of maritime ships. I think he could handily(pun intended) manage operation of the type of mechanical trunk shown. It might look like tentacles when scaled up. I like that. I've been thinking of having the station resemble a jellyfish--tentacles below/above a disk. I'll get the fluidics in. The hero is named Venturi so I can do a tie in to his name. He's a maritime navigator. I'm aiming for having him become a space navigator and then take over the GAN(galactic area network). He's ideally prepared to handle ancibles and to handle maintenance of FTL transmitter drones and space buoys. That gets into the handling of FTL telecommunications. I told you this gets complicated.
  16. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I've been thinking about use of a Legrange point for the location of the station. I take it that the station would be anchored to a large gas planet similar to Jupiter. I'm guessing that when a ship approached the station after dropping out of warp it would locate that planet and possibly pivot around it before continuing to the station. Maybe I'll name the planet Zathros if it's all right with you. I'll also need to figure out a name for the solar system. Maybe I'll simply call it the Humboldt System.
    If ships locate the planet before arriving at the station, it may offer some means of defense against arriving destroyers. Ships wouldn't be able to drop right out of warp on top of the station. I don't think the defenders can get some sort of space torpedoes in place, and I don't think they can get telechirics aboard the destroyers, but they may be able to bluff in order to gain time for negotiation. They could lead the aggressors into thinking that the defenders have ancible technology or else that they have some sort of malware which will attack the GAN. So maybe Varden, the boatswain, can take control of the gantry tentacles. The destroyers can't come near the station without getting stung. They can't destroy from a distance for fear that the defenders will infect the GAN with some sort of malware set to trigger if the station is destroyed. Or maybe defenses are already in place orbiting the planet. The good guys take control of those defenses. Oh I think I've got my explosion (Every SF book needs an explosion in my opinion) The bad guys blow up the defense satellite orbiting the planet. Oh and hand-to-hand combat between the station(using trunk tenticales) and attacking ships. Drone wars with the destroyers trying to get drones into the station while the station fends them off with their own drones. Maybe some more explosions with the attacking drones piercing the hull. Nano repair resin spattering. Firewall bulkheads dropping into place. The rotation of the station unbalanced and wobbling. People getting motion sickness. Oh Yeah!
  17. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I didn't realize that Zathras was from Babylon 5. Hmm I don't know if it will work for a planet name. The reference might be confusing.
  18. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    Yeah, some people spell it Zathrus. The arm I showed you is "naked", without covers. The idea was to convey the snake like to rigid shapes this arm can take. being able to run off of a fluidic system, that could be controlled biologically, it would be impervious to any electromagnetic pulse, so long as the control "Brain" is shielded, and that's actually easy to do. Actually, anything needing to run off of electricity could be isolated from each other, so at most, an attacker could only take control of a small area, and they could be overcome by blowing a "hatch" at the appropriate time. The arm itself could move all over the station by connecting the fluidic couplings located strategically along the various pars of the ship, and it the ship is biological, they could be called into existent by manipulation of the skin, with nano bots forming the couplings, which would then solidify to form the coupling for the arm, and fluidic couplings, or emergency air supply, whatever was needed. This port could then be reabsorbed back into the ship with no indication it was ever there. The station would always be relevant as it systems can couple with anything it scans. :)
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  19. lizzienewell

    lizzienewell Member

    I'm thinking through the battle/boarding scene. By mid book things get complicated. Dr. Ellen Clark the protagonist discovers that the population of the station is inbred due to the irresponsible behavior of space pilots. The situation has been exacerbated by attempts to crack down on vice by kicking out prostitutes which means the prostitutes aren't getting checkups or genetic counseling from the station health clinic. Dr. Clark finds out she's legally the commandant of the station. She uses her position to does political restructuring so that the parents of children can vote and so that space pilots have to check in with the health clinic. They kick out the pimps and keep the prostitutes. Dr. Clark is able to take control because she's backed up by five guys who are masters at using telechirics (remote control robots). Fed-transit who has been illegally in possession of the station sends a cruiser to take it back. Their greatest fear is that Dr. Clark will spread knowledge of how to do superluminal travel and thus break their monopoly on space communications. The greatest danger to Dr. Clark is that they will attempt to kill her in order maintain their monopoly. They could try to blow up the station, but I think they'll try to board instead. I'm assigning jobs to the five guys. Varden who is a maritime boatswain is going to take responsibility for the docking structure on the south side of the station and use the existing gantries(snake like) to fight off the boarders. Pike, maritime engineer has responsibility for the north side which has solar collectors and nuclear power plant. I'm not quite sure now he'll defend it. The north side of the station with the power plant is centuries older than the docks on the south side. It seems to me that the bad guys would attempt a flanking maneuver by attacking from the south. Gadid, first mate, has responsibility for maintaining spin and trim. Turi, navigator, has communications. He monitors the location of the enemy. Chief, head of the five guys, acts as an adviser to Dr. Clark. She will also be working with Dottie the lawyer. Also as bit characters there's a couple of elderly space pilots, Hotsy the prostitute, and Chiamaka the transgender grad student. I'm aiming for a negotiated resolution. They need to parley after an appropriately exciting scene of attempting to board the station. Ellen must convince Fed-transit that her restructuring of station polity will enhance the stations function as a shipping hub. She's also got to convince them that her knowledge of superluminal travel won't politically destabilize the galaxy or threaten Fed Transit's monopoly on space travel. I took your suggestion of locating the station at a Lagrange point formed by a gas giant planet. I also describe the gantries as tentacle like and I've started sprinkling in references to fluidics.
  20. zathros

    zathros SENIOR Administrator

    Genetically engineered virus to replace corrupted gene from inbreeding and replace them with a functioning equivalent or remove gene causing problems without replacing, sterilizing subject to terminate genetic line. Question: Is this the same person you started out with? Is consciousness affected? Could procedure be done with person conscious. If person drops out of consciousness during procedure, did they just die? Was a new being just brought into existence. Longer story arc, self correction of the Universe. Genetically "cleansed persons" could fall into different moral positions, either reflecting the strength and imprint of the former host being, or completely different persons, who would say they aren't who they were facing possible deletion? The 'New People", the unknown quantity, self correction by the universe or ultimate degradation of human beings. New People could group together, taking much needed supplies, ships, fused together with a piece of the station, taking off. Lock Bolt Station, having attained consciousness, smart enough to not demonstrate it's new state of being, has just given birth.

    Just thinking while typing. :)

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