The development of the first wormhole generators by Dr. Abriel Bendix opened the galaxy to humankind for the first time. Some few brave slower-than-light cryoships had departed for other stars with detected planetary systems, but their multiple-thousand-year voyage times and the lack of even real probe data from the destination star meant that the cryoship – an STL vessel in which the crew and colonists undertook the journey in cryogenic suspended animation – was perceived as an act of desperation or foolhardiness.
Bendix’ discoveries changed all that. For the first time, humans could bridge the gulf between stars, travelling effectively instantaneously from system to system.
The physics of the Bendix wormhole generator meant that short-distance hops required more energy than long-distance jumps, while the longer the jump that was made, the more difficult it was to properly target the exit point. The “sweet spot” between practical energy considerations on one hand and targeting probability cones on the other was initially from about twenty to a hundred light-years. Later increases in energy generation capacity reduced the lower jump radius to approximately 10 light-years, but experience showed the inadvisability of attempting to make a wormhole transit of more than 60 light-years at one time.
The main problem with the early Bendix generators was that they were huge, mass-intensive propositions. A Bendix-drive starship was necessarily a massive, kilometers-long behemoth whose sheer inertia gave it a very low acceleration in normal-space. And while it could jump from star to star instantaneously, it was limited to the pre-gravitics thruster systems of the time for getting around at the far end.
Out of this set of constraints, the shape and design of the Explorer Ship was born.
The Vasco Da Gama (shown here) was typical of the type. Class designations were virtually meaningless with such large vessels that took so long to build; each Explorer ship was effectively its own class.
Da Gama was built around a central structural gantry extending fore and aft from the Bendix generator amidships. The rotating habitation ring was constructed around the generator and provided accommodation, hydroponics, recreation and work areas for the crew.
The ship’s engine section was located aft. Comprising an array of ten immense nuclear reaction thrusters, plus tanks for reaction mass and other engineering consumables, it was the part of the vessel that allowed the Explorer Ship to move around the star system once it got there.
Explorer Ships’ massive inertia made this a slow process, however, and most normal-space exploration was performed by the fleet of LL928- and LL924-series spaceships carried by the Explorers’ aft sections. The main hangars were located top and bottom of the engine section.
The forward section could rightly be described as the “business end”. It featured the ship’s long-range and short-range sensors, plus remote probes, microgravity laboratories, zero-gee construction equipment, asteroidal smelters, autonomous fabrication plants and all the other equipment upon which interplanetary human civilisation depends.
As big ships and big LDD models go, this one’s on the small end. Big enough that I’d need to do a bunch of shopping on Bricklink before I could build it; small enough that I could possibly have a snail’s chance in a French restaurant of thinking seriously about it.
In my world, that’s part of what LDD is for: building all those models that would eat your whole part collection without burping, or which need particular elements you don’t have.
I’ve done my best to minimise glaring structural weaknesses, but I suspect that there may be a few, particularly around the joints of the spinal gantry to the various sections. Still, I’d like to think that I’ve done what I could to stop it collapsing under its own weight of plastic if it were a physical model.
As far as scale goes, this thing is immense. Big enough that that swarm of tiny craft exiting the back end are supposed to represent LL928 Galaxy Explorers. I like monstrously huge ships; they appeal to my sense of the grandiose.
I hope you like this. I’ve enjoyed building it.