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Design Thread: Nostromo interiors and deck configurations
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BR26354
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader wrote:
When imagining the functions of spacegoing vessels, I often think it helps to think of their present-day, oceangoing counterparts. It is of course by no means guaranteed that in the future, spacecraft will obey by the same design criteria as ships on the oceans, but I find this mental exercise helps ground designs that would otherwise be pure fancy in concrete, recognisable reality sort of like the "reality" represented by the interior design of the Nostromo herself.


I am thinking about the very first canonical fact we learn about the Nostromo in fact, pretty much the very first thing we get to learn about the world of Alien at all, only two minutes into the feature: the captioned words "commercial towing vehicle".



But what do the words "towing vehicle" imply here? This is one of those issues that has been bugging me for the last thirty years...
Just as what the hell does any kind of a "commercial vehicle" do with a Science Officer? ... but that's another discussion.

It has never seemed likely that she would be able to actually tow the refinery big as she is, she's still a mosquito next to the refinery itself. Newtonian physics simply wouldn't allow it even if there was reaction mass (fuel) enough, the engines themselves would be impractically small to eject the mass required at a rate great enough to do much good accelerating the total mass to useful velocities, even in space.

No, what this suggests to me is that the Nostromo must be a hyperspace tug the unit to contain all the hyperspace bubble generators (properly vastly oversized to be able to envelop something as huge as the refinery) and yes, computers to enable the refinery to move into non-Newtonian space and navigate interstellar distances at what equates to superrelativistic velocities.


So, all realspace propulsion, and fuel, to move the refinery is on the refinery, and the Nostromo's contribution as a towing vehicle is a huge hyperspace generator.


But what are the various vehicles doing in the cargo bay? Well ... this is where the Science Officer comes in.

Imagine that in this future, Humanity has spread out over a vast volume of space. Vast, and almost completely unexplored. Humans have through telescopes and probe missions identified points in this volume that are of economical interest, and have built colonies there, but all the volume between these points is nothing but a vast terra incognita.

This might have lead to a policy stating that every single manned vehicle, be it only a lowly tug, may at any point be called upon to act as a research vessel.
Hence also the policy that any indication of non-human intelligence must be investigated, at the pain of forfeiture of all shares.
And hence, vehicles are brought along to transport crew on planetary surfaces or through its atmosphere, should it be necessary.
And hence also the presence of a Science Officer on commercial spaceships.

Elegant, no? Very Happy


Vader, My conclusion precisely, about why Weylan-Yutani would have a Science Officer, as well as a minimum of research equipment, on an otherwise mundane Commercial Towing Vehicle. Brilliant deductions, Sir.
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Space Jockey
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader: Great post.

So as we are getting a feel for what the Nostromo is and what its functional roles are, lets also be think about other things that may help develop it's interior layout (not 'design' yet - too early).

The artwork by Chris Foss is heavily influenced by large machinary; marine equipment such as submarines and boats of all scales; earth moving equipment to name a few. As we think about some of the areas on Nostromo we do not see on screen, we should also gather some other material forming a 'scrapbook' from which to draw ideas.

Cutaway sections/plans/blueprints and pictures of boats, submarines, planes, NASA space shuttles.
Remember how the crew travel from deck to deck via the ladderways? Some of those thoughts and ideas in the design process of Nostromo are found in real life machinery.

Also first, we should think of the 'spaces' inside the Nostromo before moving onto the design of those spaces as they flesh out. For instance purely as an example:
Deck A space - Life Support
Deck B space - Scientific / Storage / Geo / Lifeboats
Deck C space - Engineering / Storage / Garage

then moving on:

Deck C spaces:
Engineering
- Engine Room
- Tool Room
- Machine Room
Storage
- Gas Canisters
- Space Suits
- Surveying & Mining Tools & Equip.
Garage
- Surveying & Mining Vehicles
- R. Cobb Helicopter

You get the idea, I'm just giving an approach how it could be brainstormed.
Probably we do not need to post every single picture we see here otherwise we'll end up witha really really long thread, but if you see something relevant, post a link or an image.
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FenGiddel
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will be glad to catalog the written material and any pictures. We might have to find a free web host for this should it get that big?
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know, it may not get that big; what I did myself as I saw stuff online that gives me an idea or whatever when doing the exterior prints, I'd save it within a folder on my hard drive.

As an example, This image below waspulled off the net, I saved it a while ago as I found the depiction of the print and the machinery, decks interesting.


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joberg
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great idea and great post Vader...I always imagined the Nostromo as a Zeppelin: lots of "envelope": i.e engine and very little space for crew and equipment Wink
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SKIN JOB 66
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

VERY INTERESTING posts guys, keep them coming !!!



Vader's theory would also explain why the crew has weapons and also why the EVA suits have armor plates...

Fred
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Armor plates Confused ...well if only their science officer was respecting protocol about quarantine Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:14 am    Post subject: Center of Gravity Reply with quote

Something to ponder: the landing gear 'tripod' seems centered a little forward of the ship's visual center.

The exhaust baffles, engine cowlings, etc. ---- pluse the extensive hyperdrive 'towing' machinery surely have greater mass than the sections forward of the docking module, eh?

Thoughts?

Surely something other than the "penny glued to the inside of the bow" solution to the Halcyon kit is in order to keep N from sitting on her arse when groundbound?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

joberg wrote:
Armor plates Confused


Shoulder and chest plates... The only time I've ever seen armour plates on an EVA suit !!!



Fred
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Vader
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Center of Gravity Reply with quote

FenGiddel86 wrote:
Something to ponder: the landing gear 'tripod' seems centered a little forward of the ship's visual center.

The exhaust baffles, engine cowlings, etc. ---- pluse the extensive hyperdrive 'towing' machinery surely have greater mass than the sections forward of the docking module, eh?

Thoughts?

Surely something other than the "penny glued to the inside of the bow" solution to the Halcyon kit is in order to keep N from sitting on her arse when groundbound?


It might be the other way around perhaps only the forward sections (the crew habitat, as it were) of the hull are actually pressurised?
A pressure hull, with the life support systems to keep it habitable which includes the artificial gravity systems, cosmic ray shielding, etc is likely to be a fairly massive construction, adding to the density of those sections.

Conversely, the hyperspace generator, which I expect to fill the greatest portion of the volume outside of the crew habitat, might be a fairly low density construction, mostly consisting of voids; just that it needs to be a certain size in order to project a HS bubble large and eccentric enough to envelop a structure the size of the refinery, and perhaps even larger.


The question is also where the power plant is located. It is apparent that the Nostromo's main power plant is some type of a nuclear technology. I can't remember there being any clues to tell us whether this is fission, fusion, or antimatter however. The only thing is that the explosion at the end of the movie would indicate it not being fission. However, fusion and antimatter reactions you can turn off by just stopping the feed of fuel to the reaction; only fission is dependent of a coolant...

But I digress.

Be it whichever of these technologies, radiation shielding is going to be a factor, and that will add mass. So, if the main power plant is located forward of the two rear landing gear legs, that would help counterbalance the aft sections of the hull.
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Vader
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another thing that has been concerning me: the propulsion technology to wit, what kind of rocket engines does the Nostromo have?

Or, to phrase it another way, how far from the laws of physics do we want to stray?


There are basically three choices: physically realistic reaction engines, physically unrealistic reaction engines, or reactionless engines, which would deviate from Newtonian physics, and assumes another "quasi-technology", alongside artificial gravity and FTL travel.


Physically realistic reaction engines need to eject a certain mass at a certain velocity, in order for the "equal and opposite reaction" of Newton's third law to generate thrust and cause the ship to accelerate.
Depending on what type of engine we're talking about chemical rockets, ion engines, fusion rockets, etc and consequently what ejection speeds and mass rates it can handle, there are certain fuel consumption and acceleration limits involved.
The problem with this one is that the whole bit about landing the ship on an approximately 1G world and then taking off on VTOL engines alone! and then de-orbiting again renders this scenario moot. If the Nostromo was nothing but fuel tanks fore to aft, there basically isn't a physical mechanism known to science that would make it possible.

Physically unrealistic rocket engines still need reaction mass, but assumes some quasi-technological super-efficient rocket technology that can get many times more thrust from engines at a fraction of the fuel consumption.
Or, one can say that this approach chooses to ignore the matter: we say that the ship has reaction rockets, and it has consequently large fuel tanks, but we don't give the maths of it any thought.

Reactionless engines only use power, e.g. in the form of electricity, from the power plant to generate thrust.
Physically speaking, this is about as realistic as artificial gravity in fact, having the science to develop one of these almost implies the ability to develop the other; both are a question of generating "action" without "reaction".


As you can see, these three options each create limitations on the interior layout of the Nostromo:

Even if realistic reaction engines were possible to rationalise within the events of the movie, they would require something along the lines of 80-90% of available volume inside the ship to be devoted to fuel tankage.

Unrealistic reaction engines allow us as much latitude as we like, but we still need to devote considerabel space to fuel. I feel that reducing the above percentage below, say, 40-50% would make it seem a bit silly...

Reactionless engines only need fuel for the power plant(s), which, being nuclear, will not be much. 5% of the total volume will be plenty.
For a variety of reasons, this one would be my favourite.

Thoughts?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader;
All I know is, if I ever build a Nostromo in my back garden, I would like you to build me the engine for it.
And that's all I have to say about that.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay.
So going by your very expertly written posts, I agree also about reactionless engine for three reasons, a) you seem to know what you are talking about and I would not be at all suprised if you were a real-life Doc Brown, b) it sounds bloody good and c) going the nuclear route fits in with what is currently written about the Nostromo in the Aliens Tech Manual and the some of subsequent technical info written on the blueprints, where I used the Tech Manual info already out there. That says that the Nostromo is powered by a fusion reactor, though you've noted it can be simply turned off rather than the fission route which is dependent on the coolant. Could there be something else that is reliant on coolant where if the coolant is shut off, it affects the fusion process? i.e. an independant part that is used with fusion that needs coolant to remain stable perhaps. I don't know, just a thought.

My first thought also when I read Fengiddel's post regarding the weight distribution in Nostromo in relation to the three undercarriage legs went back to the huge cavernous area at the back of the ship that the engine room looks out over; the impression I always had is that this huge space would be located behind the rear undercarriage legs (though within the main hull). That may help distribute the load...in addition, any fuel that is needed, if not on Nostromo, could it be fed through the docking clamp from the refinery?
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Space Jockey
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, somehow I managed to frigging-well lose my copy of Ron Cobb's Colorvision somewhere in the move from Seattle>UK>Tennessee...not happy. Crying or Very sad

But the good news is I think I have managed to find a reasonably priced replacement i.e. under $60... we'll see when I receive it within the next couple of weeks.
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FenGiddel
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Space Jockey wrote:
Well, somehow I managed to frigging-well lose my copy of Ron Cobb's Colorvision somewhere in the move from Seattle>UK>Tennessee...not happy. Crying or Very sad

But the good news is I think I have managed to find a reasonably priced replacement i.e. under $60... we'll see when I receive it within the next couple of weeks.


And now for a "duh" question: what's in Colorvision that you're referring to?
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andy
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just got a copy of it on Ebay a couple weeks ago. For about $30 Very Happy

Love the book, his work really is great.

Andy
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

andy wrote:
I just got a copy of it on Ebay a couple weeks ago. For about $30 Very Happy


Jeez, rub it in whydontchya!

Fengiddel, there's nothing in particular in the book I'm referring to; I like the concept art of the Nostromo corridors etc he did, and I may have a go at some concept art of the 'unknown' portions of Nostromo in his style of art. Of course, I went to get my copy, then realized I didn't have it.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vader, your engineering concepts are intriguing and I agree the most 'realistic' and less magical the better the one to go with that fits what's been established on film.

I mean "most realistic" in the same vein as I consider N's exterior, which some have argued would not withstand the violence of reentry.

I posted a question on Yahoo! Answers for some egg-head (affectionately used) to tell me how you'd figure out how long N would take to land from orbit, but all I get are smart-aleck answers.

Perhaps, given her immensity, her landfall is extremely long and therefore avoid a heated re-entry. There is no sign of excess heat on the ventral hull as she descends,so perhaps this may hold some value.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thing is, you don't really need a heat shield to make atmospheric entry -- just look at SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. This design uses virtually no heat shield at all; it needs none, because the high-drag reentry attitude slows the vehicle down before it hits denser atmosphere.

The provision is of course that you're not coming in at orbital velocities.

The key is to first slow down to virtual standstill in relation to the planet below -- no mean feat in itself. It demands a lot from the ship's engines, and would consume an enormous amount of fuel, assuming any type of reaction thruster. SpaceShipOne of course achieves this by never accelerating to orbital velocity.
At that point, you're no longer in freefall; the planet's gravity is dragging you down (being in "orbit" is no more than the art of throwing oneself at the ground and missing -- and then keeping on missing, because of your high velocity. The "zero-G" experienced is not due to a lack of gravity, but due to the fact that you're actually constantly falling. Hence "freefall").
Here, the Nostromo's great bulk and non-streamlined configuration actually helps: the drag generated in the thin upper atmosphere aids in keeping the entry velocity under control. But, you do need to use the ship's engines in order to control the ship's considerable inertia. The point is to keep the entry velocity low -- no speed, no heat.

Or -- since we're already assuming a technology that has FTL travel, artificial gravity fields, and as consensus seems to have it, reactionless rocket engines -- an antigrav unit. This is basically a corollary of artificial gravity technology, and can actually be assumed to use the same, or at least technologically similar, equipment.
That way, the much more powerful engines on the refinery unit can do the slowing down from orbital velocity for the Nostromo, and drop her off more or less above the derelict. After that, the refinery can just float there, geostationary, on antigrav.
For the descent, the Nostromo's own antigrav controls the buildup of inertia against the planet's gravity, and thrusters are used for maneuvering only, and to kill the final inertia at touchdown.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All this makes for an interesting read; thanks Vader for that. Cool
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