Interplanetary Science Ship – Pt.1
A personal exercise that started life as a doodle on a piece of scrap paper, and grew into a full-on design project:
It started as a quick sketch I made while reading the short story “Gossamer” by Stephen Baxter. The doodle didn’t have anything to do with the story … but if you ever need a cure for artist’s block, read literally anything written by Stephen Baxter.
The ship was essentially a giant engine with a harness for carrying a re-entry vehicle. The landing craft was inspired by Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship One, and by the work of design superstar Luigi Colani.
I really dug the Luigi Colani/Burt Rutan look, and tried a second drawing which applied that inspiration to the whole ship. Pretty cool and sleek, but it looked way too futuristic:
I kept coming back to the boxy silhouette of the original doodle. It reminded me of a freight train locomotive, or a cargo plane. The ship was meant to be an evolution of modern-day spacecraft, and so it needed to be anchored in a contemporary design aesthetic.
The ship is designed as a one-size-fits-all workhorse for long-term manned missions within the solar system — a sort of interplanetary space shuttle. It is made up of three modular segments, plus a landing craft – any of which can be modified for specific mission parameters:
1) A fusion drive in the aft is capable of propelling the ship to any point in our solar system.
2) A connective truss joins the engines to the forward section of the ship, and houses power units and EVA access points. It also provides a mounting point for long-range telemetry, shielding and heat redistribution (the large golden strips that look like solar panels are, in fact, giant radiators for dumping excess heat from the engines).
3) The habitat module houses the crew and life-support systems. In the ship’s frame of reference, forward is ‘up’, and in cruising phases of a journey the crew are able to experience sensations of gravity due to the acceleration of the vessel.
Below the habitat compartments is a cradle for the landing craft. The idea is that any one of a number of different vehicles could be mounted here, depending on the mission.
I did a bunch of brainstorming about what exactly the relationship between the habitat and the lander was. Was the belly of the ship exposed to space, or was the lander housed behind closed doors?
I fleshed out the aft end of the ship, and experimented with an entire series of habitat configurations:
A few last details were finalized. I tried building a forward-facing cockpit like this hypothetical lunar shuttle, but such an arrangement would be entirely unnecessary to fly the ship. There are, however, a number of portholes near the nose of the ship, and an ISS-style cupola overlooking the hangar bay doors.
The final design of the ship, with the real-world space station Skylab for scale. The A detail view shows how the belly of the ship opens up to accommodate a re-entry vehicle – in this case a Dream Chaser-esque spaceplane.