Monthly Archives: February 2018

Interior Search Rover 500

A space rescue service might not necessarily have that much use for rovers. In rescue operations, speed is usually of the essence, and why crawl along the ground when you can use antigravity or rockets to fly?

However, I can see a logical niche for a small rover designed to do stuff like zoom through the corridors of a powered-down space base looking for survivors of the meteor strike that took out the power plant.

Q-Tron ISR-500 rover

Presenting the Q-Tron Interior Search Rover 500.

The ISR-500 is a small but fully-enclosed rover used for search-and-rescue operations within damaged or powerless space bases. Its small size and tiny wheel base gives it the ability to navigate through base corridors in search of trapped survivors, and powerful headlights give the operator visibility in the absence of base lighting.

A pair of small manipulator arms can be used to move obstacles or pry open bulkhead doors; these are equipped with an external power source which can be plugged into powered access doors in the event of main power failure.

This is basically Q-Tron meets FebRovery. I still have a vague idea for a large mobile Q-Tron headquarters rover, but I’m not ready to attempt that quite yet. So I thought about what other rescue situations might need a rover, and came up with this. It’s a dinky little thing and bears more than a passing resemblance to the head section of the Q-Mech, but I think the concept’s a good one and I’m pleased with the execution.

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Q-Tron Returns

Even in the future, just being in space is a dangerous business. When a space base gets hit by a meteorite strike, when a moonquake buries an M:Tron rover under piles of debris, when another spaceship crashes onto the dangerous rocky planetoid of Sigma-VI, the Q-Tron Space Rescue Service are the brave women and men who go into danger to rescue the survivors.

Q-Tron Space Rescue recovery hovercrane

Though they operate many distinctive and unique vehicles specially designed for rescue operations, they also use other vehicles repurposed for space rescue and painted in their distinctive high-visibility livery. One of these is the so-called Recovery Hovercrane, a modified industrial antigrav lifter used for clearing debris fields. Its powerful tractor beams and massive grav engines allow it to quickly clear rubble and free trapped astronauts, though it also has a physical winch as a backup.

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Taking a little break from rovers, I thought I’d return to Q-Tron. I actually built this before I fully decided on its role, wanting to use those big Technic wheels I recently acquired and thinking that the big engines would make for a good reconnaissance platform.

It was only after I’d mostly finished that I thought about the utility of massive overtorqued engines for moving debris, so I decided to make it a hovercrane instead of a scout. If you have antigravity robust enough for use in semi-industrial applications like this, you ought to have tractor beams reliable enough to replace physical winches and ropes, but I added that winch anyway as an afterthought in case of emergency. I’m sure they’ll find a use for it.

When I invented Q-Tron back with the Q-Mech of last year, I selected trans blue as the windscreen element colour both because it goes well with the ambulance-y red and white livery I picked and because I have a reasonable selection of options for cockpit canopies in that colour. But I actually found myself wishing for an element I don’t have in trans blue: a 4×6 bubble canopy like the yellow one I used on the Tetrapillar rover. Obviously I have that element in other colours, but not trans blue, so I did what any builder too cheap and impatient to Bricklink every time I have an element crisis would do: I adapted something else. In the end I rather like the more angular look that resulted, but it’s undoubtedly a very different shape than the bubble canopy would have been.

Back when I first came up with the idea of Q-Tron, I hadn’t heard of anyone else taking the step of creating what’s effectively a new Classic Space theme, but the idea of Space Rescue seemed like it merited that treatment. Since then I’ve discovered builder Crimso Giger‘s “Suntron” theme of space hippies in yellow ships, as well as something called “Grey:Tron” built by Frost, though, so apparently it’s a thing to make your own Space theme.

Suntron seems a bit more generic than my Q-Tron, though; the difference being similar to that between Futuron and Ice Planet. Both are in space, but where the Ice Planeteers are focused on a particular task (cold-planet exploration), Futuron are just out there doing their civilian colonial thing. Q-Tron are a Space Rescue Service, whereas Suntron are just out there doing their bright yellow hippie thing. It’s an interesting difference.

I’m absolutely positive Q-Tron will return. There’s so many more possible Space Rescue vehicles. Among other things I have a miniature rover already built that I need to photograph and post.

Rovin’ Rovin’ Rovin’

Tetrapillar rover

What’s FebRovery without some Neoclassic Space goodness?

Carrying the flag for the blue, grey and trans yellow progenitors of LEGO Space itself, the “Tetrapillar” rover marks my third FebRovery 2018 build (but only the second posted here; I didn’t have enough to say about the steam-driven Lunar Traverser to warrant a post).

Named because its low-slung, long-bodied design put me vaguely in mind of a caterpillar, yet it only has four wheels, the Tetrapillar is piloted by a rather grouchy-looking white-suited astronaut.

In my personal interpretation of the suit colours (based loosely on pictorial evidence from the original sets and publicity photos) the white suits represent scientists while the red-suited astronauts are drivers and pilots. However, that doesn’t look like a science rover; that looks awfully like a gun mounted on the top. I daresay it could be a mass spectrometry laser or mining blaster or some such, but equally they could be shorthanded on Moonbase Delta-3 and Dr. Brickman there is miffed at having been taken away from his vital research on comets to go on perimeter patrol.

Technically the bumblebee stripes are unusual on a planetary rover, but I like the way they look there, especially rounded like that. If general theory is right that the stripes are a form of hazard striping, there’s no reason that a rover powered by a nuclear reactor or similar high-energy power source shouldn’t have them. Of course, over the several years of the Classic Space prototheme’s run there are numerous inconsistencies of technology, astronaut suit colour role and vehicular livery. There are at least three major Classic Space liveries (this one, this one and this one) and only one of them incorporates bumblebee striping.

Raven Rover

“FebRovery” is one of those months of LEGO building focus that I feel I can definitely participate in.

SHIPtember has thus far been a real stretch; about 75-80 studs’ length is about all I’ve been able to do and end up with something that’s actually good. My 2 SHIPs ended up at 101 and 103 studs respectively and both of them suffered from being overly stretched to meet the 100-stud requirement.

NoVVember I could technically do, but I’ve built my token Vic Viper and there’s not that much in the configuration that makes me want to build a whole series of them.

Droneuary, which I discovered a couple of weeks ago, is apparently for robots, and I’m not even completely convinced it’s a real thing.

But a month of focus on building space rovers? That we can do.

The whole thing does make me wonder what’s next, though. The fantasy build month of Orctober? Pirate builds in Arrrgust? DeSteamber? The mind boggles.

Anyway, FebRovery.

Raven scout rover

I wasn’t particularly sure what I wanted to do for this month of rovers at first. My initial thought was something Neoclassic, but in playing around with various suspension designs I realised that what I hit upon would probably work better with my brick inventory if I went Blacktron. So here it is.

There were numerous ways I could have gone from my initial chassis construction, but what I’ve ended up with is basically a Blacktron space jeep.

This is a completely different aesthetic to the original Blacktron sets. The designers of the Invader and the Battrax obviously groove to streamlined and sharklike rather than blocky and modernist, but the military lines of the space jeep (which I’m designating the Raven because “Raven rover” makes nice alliteration) go well with the hard-edged bad-boy feel of the Blacktron.

The suspension (if you want to call it that) won’t be winning any prizes in a Technic functionality contest, but each wheel will go up and down individually if you manually manipulate the attachments. I’m no car geek; this is as close as I come to fully-detailed V8 engines with working gearboxes and turbochargers. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and no-one can tell you what a hyperdrive looks like because we don’t even know whether it’s possible.

Building the Raven in the style of a military 4×4 meant it has room for two astronauts, and with another Blacktron spaceman riding the Shadow-Wasp, all three members of my tiny Blacktron legion are currently in builds.

Despite its jet-black name, the Raven actually has more yellow than I frequently use. One thing I tend to dislike about open-cockpit Blacktron vehicles is the way the pilot disappears into the structure visually, but here I decided to give them yellow seat backs and I think it works much better. It’s a lot of yellow in one place, though, which is usually a no-no for achieving the proper Blacktron look, but this doesn’t break the arbitrary 10% cutoff.

The hoses attached to the rear-mounted cannons restrict the cannons’ firing arc a bit, at least as far as poseability goes, but I’m not getting rid of them because I like the way they look. As for the big cylinder they’re mounted to, I’m not sure whether that’s some kind of power reactor or a fuel supply or what. It’s there to be visually interesting.

Of course, two seats side by side meant I had to either equip it with dual controls or decide which side of the road the Blacktron Alliance drives on. And given an opportunity like that I decided it was too good to pass up. The Blacktrons drive on the right. The Classic Space Federation probably drive on the left.

Steering wheel on the left = Drives On The Right

Sting from the Shadows

A Blacktron Shadow-Wasp swoops on two Federation troopers.

The BT4000 Shadow-Wasp is a single-pilot hoverbike-style combat skimmer used by the Blacktron Alliance. Armed with two antipersonnel-calibre laser cannons mounted on the fuselage and two energy lances at the wingtips, its relatively large size for a hoverbike gives it a power most such vehicles lack.

Beneath its space-black Alliance-livery cowling the SAMUKAI gravitic power plant is of a size more usually found in 2-4-crew patrol skimmers, though the Shadow-Wasp is optimised for speed and manoeuvre rather than patrol endurance. The SAMUKAI plant is a product of the notorious Nexo Power Labs of the Blacktron colony-world Stygian, responsible for the DRAKON power plant of the Invader modular space fighter. All that can be seen externally of the SAMUKAI power system, however, is a pair of particle exhaust regulators located one on each side of the forward fuselage above the laser cannons.

The Shadow-Wasp is typically flown from a standing position with space boots electromagnetically clamped to the pilot’s position for safety. All relevant controls are located on the twin joystick-style control levers for ease of operation; further options are accessed via datalink to the small onboard systems management computer.

The vastly overpowered gravitic engines of the Shadow-Wasp give the craft a linear flight speed twice that of most vehicles in its class, and its winglike gravitic deflection vanes allow manoeuvrability to match; however, the system suffers in terms of stealth, as there is no realistic way to shield or cloak the emissions of a power plant this size on so small a craft.

The twin lasers are able to be employed in either pulse or beam mode, though typically the rapid-firing pulse mode is preferred, with the energy lances providing the primary beam weapon. Energy lances are slower to fire than lasers, but do more damage, and are typically used against armoured targets.

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My first Blacktron build of the year, and it’s basically a speeder bike.

I know some builders seem to specialise in speeder bikes, but I tend to gravitate more to vehicles with enclosed cockpits, and they’re rarer from me. But I think this might be one of my better ones.

Almost entirely SNOT construction, the only part of this Shadow-Wasp that disappoints me slightly is that I wasn’t able to employ the idea I have for making the pilot sit astride the vehicle. With the rest of the way it’s constructed it just wasn’t going to work. Next time, maybe. I did, however, manage to make a kneeling Federation astronaut: a much more finicky operation than I realised, needing the torso to be finely balanced on the disconnected leg beneath.

Kneeling minifig. A personal first, and surprisingly finicky to achieve.

The “Shadow-Wasp” name comes from my wife’s comment that the completed speeder “looks like a backwards-flying bumblebee”. “Bumblebee” itself seemed too friendly and Federation-y, but I kept within the same nomenclative region. It was nearly “Hornet”, but Hornet sounded like it needed more yellow, and putting too much yellow in the model is one of the most annoying ways people get neo-Blacktron builds wrong. For the record, the ratio of visible yellow to visible black should never really get above about 1:10. Blacktron II sets were more evenly split between black and white, but the first wave of Blacktron were overwhelmingly black, as is right and proper given their factional name.

I wanted to post this several days ago, but I haven’t been home in daylight to take decent pictures. Trying to photograph a black vehicle solely by living-room-quality artificial light is difficult. You either get this horrible grainy finish as the digital camera tries to cope with insufficient light, or you use flash and end up with a different kind of photographic disaster: an undifferentiated black blob with an ultrabright highlight on every single stud.

Yeah, I should invest in a light box, or at the very least some spotlights and diffusers. But on my limited budget it usually comes down to photography stuff or more LEGO bricks. And that’s no contest.

Until then, I have to wait for daylight, which means right after I get home from work on a Saturday, or Sunday afternoon, or a rain day if I get one. Hence the delay in posting and the fact that it’s now FebRovery and here I am with a speeder bike.