Frontier Transport, Version 2 WIP 1

I spent way oto much time on this. Desining spaceships is hard work. Maybe once I get a bit more practice…


I like this new version quite a bit more than the old one. However, I am well aware of some problems with the design:

  • Need to work out bow design
  • Ship is veritcally unsymetrical – this moves center of mass “up” and will probably look shabby in 3D
  • 96 TEU cargo plan would mean that anybody who wants to pass through the cargo bay has to go through the passenger/crew level. Not a big issue, but seems inefficient.
  • How/where does the landing gear retract?

There will be more problems once I work on this again, I am sure… But well, anyway, I thought I’d share and see what you guys think.



8 thoughts on “Frontier Transport, Version 2 WIP 1

  1. Questions:
    Why the ‘aircraft’ layout?
    Why does the same ship that (apparently) travels between stars also (apparently) land on a planet? (that’s like combining a helicopter and an elevator)
    Why is the passenger deck above the cargo hold? (thus preventing you from opening the whole dorsal surface up and lifting cargo out quickly with a crane)
    Why are the personnel airlocks so far from the crew spaces? (in an emergency, that means dead spacers)

  2. (your comment form’s post button vanishes if I write a long enough comment)
    You probably want a lot more space between the reactor and anywhere the crew or passengers are going to spend a lot of time. That’s the difference between a reactor accident grounding the ship temporarily, while they fix it, or grounding the ship permanently because of a couple dozen wrongful death lawsuits.
    Consider separate cargo haulers (between-stars/orbit-to-orbit) and cargo landers (orbit-to-ground). It’s safer and cheaper.
    Those drive pylons look comparatively fragile. I’d expect a lot more bracing on anything that can push a starship along at a good clip.

  3. Technical:
    You can, most likely, combine shapes in your vector drawing program (thus cleaning up all the overlapping transparency issues). What are you using?
    Consider learning the Pen/other bezier-curve drawing tool in your program of choice. Geometric shapes are nice, but it’ll give you more control even over those.
    I never start a design in the software. Try sitting down with pen and paper and test a couple ideas out (you don’t have to produce great art, just serviceable layouts), find one you like, and then start making vector artwork.

  4. Ah, thanks for the extensive feedback Soren! No idea what the problem is with the feedback form, haven’t seen that yet myself, but I’ll keep an eye out for that.

    The ship’s role is to be a small, independent freighter – it can’t count on port facilities to be available and indeed would be a ship sent to where none exist. It doesn’t “really” have an aircraft layout, beyond my attempt to keep the ship’s center of gravity in mind. (The airfoil is part of the A380 in the background, not of the spaceship.)

    The technology of Somnium does allow gravity manipulation and ships use gravitic drives for propulsion. This is not a choice I like 100% – I like contragrav vehicles but I am well aware that the technology is a huge can of worms. However, “Reactionless” drives are pretty much a necessity if you want convenient space travel. Ground-to-orbit costs are also excessive if you have to rely on good old rocket motors.

    Since the entire ship can land on a planet, shuttles are not needed. I might still include a small one, but that would be used purely for ship-to-ship ferrying where the two ships can not dock for whatever reason.

    Since the ship would operate in an atmosphere, it makes sense to attempt to streamline it at least somewhat – I am assuming this would reduce stress during reentry if nothing else.

    I did toy with putting the passenger quarters behind or in front of the cargo area. The ship is pretty high as it is right now. However, I also didn’t want the ship to become too long (it’s about as long as a soccer pitch right now!). I considered putting the cabins below the cargo deck, but a dropped container could more easily cost lives that way, passengers might feel more claustrophobic, and I do think people would be more likely to look straight and up for a good view, and not through the floor. I did not include it in this drawing, but I was considering additional cargo bay doors on the sides of the ship. Finally, we do not load/unload airplanes with cranes either – and an interstellar economy will be much more similar to airtraffic than maritime traffic.Not in itself a reason to do it one way or the other, but I think the time it takes to unload the thing is probably not a major factor in the overall cost calculation. (Which, yes, I will do at some point. At least roughly.)

    Perosnnel airlocks: They are near the common area, I haven’t really added any emergency hatches etc yet. It’s definitely something to work out though, you are right.

    I don’t think the reactor is going to be a problem. Not a physicist, so i can’t do the calculations myself, but from what I understand most of the radiation released in nuclear fusion reactions is easily shielded. Catastrophic errors are possible, but shouldn’t be too dangerous to the passengers or crew (the reaction simply stops if fuel supply is interrupted). Might extend it back by a few meters, added room could be useful (the engine section is quite small right now).

    The pylons are 4m wide – but I’d love to run this by some sort of structural engineer. 🙂 They are extended out purely for aesthetic reasons. I did consider adding additional thrusters – sort of a cross-shaped arrangement – because I think that way the ship could more easily compensate for imbalances, I am just not sure how I can make that work and still have landing gear that doesn’t lift the ship too far off the ground.

    I am using Inkscape. I know I can combine the shapes, but this is basically my electronic version of sketching – I can rearrange stuff quicker and don’t have to keep two versions. I’ve tried the pen-and-paper method but electronic seems to work better for me. I actually wish I had my old Lego bricks here – if I did, I would do my prototyping with them. I have the lego designer software, but I get distracted too much by the interface.

    Wow, that was a lot of text… and the post comment button is still visible for me 🙂

  5. I’ll have to think more on this and get back to you, but right off the bat I agree with Soren – flip it over so the cargo is accessible from above deck. That’s how today’s container ships do it. You could still mag-lock them in place, the crew could walk directly into the personnel areas from the ground, and I think maybe you could include a crane topside to balance it out visually. That idea comes from watching the crabbers on Deadliest Catch 😉 Maybe your crane is flanked by protective anti-aircraft guns. They’ll need it if they’re traveling through space with easy pickins.

  6. Might just be Chrome acting up. It sounds like you’re just making a set of design decisions I don’t usually agree with, so that’s cool. I still think it would be worth reworking your layout to have all the passenger areas in the nose and cargo behind – that also solves your reactor problem as 96 TEUs of anything is a lot of radiation shielding (fusion typically produces neutrons unless you’re planning around a specifically aneutronic reaction – hydrogen/boron-11 is a good one).

    I naturally approve of Lego as a prototyping method; here’s an orbit-to-orbit ship with a similar layout that I did a while ago:

  7. Container ships carry a LOT of stuff. Even the smallest carry a couple hundred TEU. I still think that the economies for interstellar ships will be much more similar to air travel. 96 TEU is pushing the design of this small transport, too – it simply gets too big for the intended (story) purpose.

    Why don’t we load and unload cargo planes from the top? Presumably because it increases airport infrastructure requirements and doesn’t really add any benefit – just pushing the palettes in and out won’t be that much slower than a crane.

    And I do think the chance for mishaps is greater with a crane, let’s not forget these ships and planes are very expensive.

    Finally, a contragravity-using culture won’t need cranes anyway. Just float the cargo out.

    The benefit of the front-loading is that you can pass stuff through an airlock if you need to (though presumably you could depressurize the entire cargo bay.) Might have implications for decontamination as well.

  8. I think there is no reactor problem. D-T does produce free neutrons, but those are easily shielded by water (or anything hydrogen-rich). p-B simply has a huge disadvantage over D-T, a tiny, tiny power density, and these spaceships will be exceedingly power hungry (gravitic drives, hyperspace motors). p-B fuel cycles might be more common in planetside applications (where you can’t put a meter of water between you and your power source – think Mecha and the like).

    Nice design on the Abu Simbel!

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