Tag Archives: Classic Space

Horizon Station

Horizon Station, planet Eos

Horizon Station is the main Federation outpost on Eos, third planet of the star 51 Arietis. The star system contains no habitable, Earthlike planets, but its location makes it an emerging nodal system for the exploration of the Sancerre sector.

Due to a strong Blacktron presence in the neighbouring Inari sector, Horizon Station’s defences have been enhanced over what might be expected from what is still a relatively minor exploration hub, as attested by the presence of a full-blown Protector-class surface-based anti-capital-ship laser turret.

Federation heavy transport Altair (hull no. LL828) sits on the landing strip adjacent to the Protector turret. A Starlifter-class vessel built for the intrasystem transport of cargo rather than passengers, Altair’s blocky lines are less elegant than more passenger-optimised transports such as LL928 Galaxy Explorer. Warehousing on the other side of the landing strip serve as a holding area for transfers of cargo into and out of the Station.

Warehousing and landing strip

The plasma exhaust vents jutting upward in front of the turret are from an old subterranean fusion plant, now part of the emergency backup systems. The modern plug-in antimatter reactor that actually powers the base is located some distance from the main facility for safety reasons. Controlled antimatter annihilation produces vast amounts of energy, and should the containment fields fail, this energy would be released all at once with incredible violence.

Plasma vents and recovery rover
Either a shield generator or a power plant

A newly-built monorail track connects the turretside landing strip to other parts of the Station, passing on of Horizon Station’s sensor nodes on its way out. The various active and passive radars, gravitic detectors, advanced optics, life sensors and lidar on the planetary surface and in orbit are tied into a single network in order to maximise the sensitivity and resolution of the system.

Elevated monorail

On the other side of the elevated monorail rack is an old-style rocket launch pad. Even in the age of antimatter annihilation reactors and cheap fusion, old-fashioned rocketry still has its uses: re-usable nuclear and chemical rockets are a low-tech, low-infrastructure way of achieving orbit without needing complex and costly megastructures like orbital rings and space elevators.

Rocket launch base

The fast transport LL564 Hyperion swoops in over the Protector-class turret for a landing on the strip, while the compact Eridani-class scout cruiser LL667 Galbatorix hovers over the ridgeline in a holding pattern.

LSS Hyperion
LSS Galbatorix

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Microscale is great for stuff like this. While it would undoubtedly be awesome to be able to put something like this together in all-up minifig scale, my brick inventory isn’t yet up to humungous double-pool-table-sized displays. Also, I’m not certain how I’d do that defence turret in minifigure scale.

The turret was the first piece of this to get built, and the base grew up around it. I was playing around with various dome designs, and realising that I still don’t have quite enough 1×4 hinge plates for a ¾ icosahedron dome in all light bluish grey, and came up with this alternate dome design using the nexagon plates.

This meant that the minifigure-scale greenhouse dome I was contemplating got quietly reworked into a defence turret, and then I added the landing strip and LL828 Altair. Then the rest of the base happened.

It took some time to put together, as I put things in, moved them around, reworked them and even took them out again completely. I’m quite pleased that I managed to reference the authentic Classic Space red hubcaps in a microscale surface rover, and I also managed to reference the Space monorail and the Alpha-1 Rocket Base.

For the record, LL828 Altair is named after the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila, the eagle, because it has a definite resemblance to the Eagle spacecraft from the old Space:1999 TV series. The Eagle’s a great design and looks very adaptable to the near-future semi-realism of the Classic Space theme. At some point I have plans to build a full-sized minifig-scale Altair.

Horizon Station itself (I tried out various names before settling on this one) is named because I wanted something forward-looking and optimistic in keeping with the original spirit of Classic Space. Also it doesn’t necessarily tie you down to any particular location or franchise universe.

The terrain of planet Eos (named after the Greek goddess of the dawn, because Classic Space just seems to go with Greco-Roman mythological names) is light tan because that’s the colour of baseplate I have, but it also looks pleasingly like the sand-coloured planetary backdrop featured in all the old Classic Space promotional materials, like catalogue imagery and instruction booklets. I always used to wonder how the sand/tan background was supposed to represent the same planet as the old grey crater baseplates anyway, so being able to just build my planet in one colour makes sense to me.

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This Is Not The V-Wing You Are Looking For

LL588 V-Wing transatmospheric craft

When looking for a name for this NCS transatmospheric craft, it seemed that “V-Wing” was the only possible choice somehow.

However, there’s already a Clone Wars-era Star Wars ship (possibly two) by that name, so I was reluctant to add a third.

Still, with those long wings that fold vertically up for landing, it’s so much more V-shaped than the V-wing. Which I don’t actually like all that much as a fighter; too derivative of the Jedi Starfighter. And since the NCS universe in all its variants is normally separate from the Star Wars canon universe and I know of at least one non-Star Wars V-Wing, I think it’s okay to add another.

LL588 in landing configuration

I know it looks like an NCS homage to Kylo Ren’s command shuttle, but I was honestly more inspired by the Imperial shuttle Tydirium. It was only after I decided to dispense with the vertical fin that I realised how similar it looks to the First Order’s second-best original vehicle.

I’ve ranted before about how ugly a lot of the new trilogy’s new hardware is, but there are a few exceptions. I mean, the Resistance X-Wing and First Order TIE Fighter can barely be told from their originals, and a lot of the other hardware is so obviously derivative that I don’t count it as a new vehicle (First Order Star Destroyers, uglified AT-ATs, Resistance cruisers). And so what are we left with? The ugly sideways brick of the Resistance troop transport, the First Order’s slab-sided repulsorlift LST, the almost-as-ugly Resistance bomber and that transport pod. The Crait speeders are a partial exception but I’m not personally that fond of them, so the only two new ships out of two whole Star Wars movies that I actually like the designs of are the First Order command shuttle and the TIE Silencer.

For the Star Wars universe, that’s a pretty terrible record. The franchise made its name and reputation at least in part on its iconic and awesome ship designs, and even the Prequel Trilogy had a lot of gorgeous vehicles, like the vaguely-ancestral-to-an-X-Wing Naboo fighters or the sail-powered vessel of Count Dooku or the AT-TE. The present crop of hardware designers just don’t seem to cut it by comparison.

However, this is NCS, and owes little to the Star Wars canon apart from a tangential inspiration. My V-Wing actually looks like a V and not a letter H.

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The LL588 V-Wing is a class of transatmospheric scoutship used by the Federation. Its long wings make it perfect for in-atmosphere work as well as in vacuum, but its flight configuration is suboptimal for space carrier operations due to the amount of hangar space they take up.

Though some carrier designs experimented with vertical-stacking small craft bays, the fact is that humans evolved on the ground and prefer flat layouts.

The solution ever since the days of ancient wet-navy aircraft carriers has often been folding wing designs, and the V-Wing is no exception. When raised for landing, the wings do take up a considerable amount of height, but hangar bays are typically tall to facilitate takeoff/landing operations.

The LL588 V-Wing is not heavily armed for its size, though the pair of underslung particle cannons are of a calibre normally found on corvettes and small frigates as secondary or tertiary weapons. In addition, the V-Wing bears a pair of wingtip lasers.

The main thrusters are augmented by wing-mounted microjets to aid in extra-atmospheric manoeuvring.

Komodo

Between single- and dual-crew space fighters and large frigate- and corvette-class vessels is a huge size range which in civilian vessels comprises the larger Courier- and smaller Trader-classes: small-to-medium vessels with between two and twelve crew. Military ships in this displacement bracket tend to have larger crews for their displacement, not having a lot of their tonnage allocated to cargo; the Gunship class bracket typically runs from around four to around twenty crew, which upper limit would typically be considered a small corvette.

The Komodo-class is a small example of the Gunship class, intended to accompany fighters and provide heavier fire support. This is typical of small Gunship design philosophy; larger Gunships act more like extremely light fleet screening elements, with heavy antifighter and antimissile armaments and maybe one or two larger-calibre guns.

The distinguishing feature of the Komodo-class is, of course, the jawlike frontal arrangement hiding the primary antiphoton beam cannon. The jaws are almost purely cosmetic, though the teeth are constructed of high-strength buckycarbon sheathed in titanium and honed to a monomolecular edge, and can be employed as an ultra-close-in weapon system to slice into or crush enemy ship hulls.

The cannon on either side of the “head” cockpit area are heavy plasma beam generators, providing the Komodo-class with its regular forward firepower.

Rear defensive cover is provided by a pair of laser cannon situated in the tail, but the Komodo-class’ primary defense is its manoeuvrability. Featuring a pair of dual-direction vectored thrust fusion drives, the class’ vessels can literaly turn on the spot or fly backwards or sideways at need, making the Komodos more manoeuvrable than many fighters. Indeed, some commands use squadrons of Komodo-class ships unsupported by lighter fightercraft in a fighterlike role; though the acceleration of smaller vessels is almost always greater.

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Okay, the chomping mouth makes no sense from a pure space combat perspective. It’s pure Rule of Cool and pretty in-your-face about it.

Still, it’s one of my favourite parts of this whole ship and provides a nice first use for all those recently-acquired Nexo shield elements.

This started out its life as a Classic Space-themed Komodo dragon mech, and while I was really pleased with the head, the more I looked at it the more I felt like the head was too big for the body and the body just wasn’t cool enough.

I could have reworked the body, but I was unconvinced I could do a good enough job to justify that head, and besides, even the clickstop universal joint hinge I used could barely support the weight.

I decided to take the head and rework it into a spaceship. The class name comes from there, but it was almost the Kronosaurus-class after the extinct marine reptile.

The engines are technically attached with an “illegal” connection: the Technic pin holes in the main hull are just a fraction out of line from the pins that go into them, meaning that the joints are stressed. But for once, I don’t care; the overall look is worth the minute amount of stress and I’ve stressed enough Technic axles with my usual design of “in-flight” model stand that I’m sort of getting inured to it.

Anyway, this is the Komodo. Enjoy.

Drive Me To The Moon

LL28 Lunar Excursor

Though the System possesses the technology to make surface-repulsor vehicles – skimmers and speeders – practicable as a means of transport, older technologies such as mechs and rovers are still very common on most of the System’s worlds. Surface-bound vehicles are much slower than repulsor skimmers, but their energy usage (and thus operating expense) is a fraction of what a skimmer uses. The profit-conscious transcorporations of the System are congenitally opposed to spending unnecessary credits, and so most of them utilise ground vehicles whenever speed is not a priority.

The LL28 Lunar Excursor is an early-model fast rover built by the Lagrange-Lunacorp Group’s Jupiter Rover Company. Designed as an exploration vehicle for two astronauts in the days before the Blacktron separatist movement began to gain traction, it is usually employed in the post-Blacktron age as a scout/reconnaissance vehicle, as its low-energy power plant can be easily stealthed against Blacktron scanners.

This particular LL28 is an unstealthed example without the scanner-absorbent baffles surrounding the electric drive train and microfusion power plant.

The massive wheels are a feature of most rovers designed to operate away from the roads and paving of Earth and the large L4 and L5 space station colonies, but even on Earth itself, driving a vehicle with “Moon wheels” is something of a selling point.

In the post-Blacktron age, many Lunar Excursors are fitted with laser or plasma cannon as a defensive mechanism, but numbers of unarmed specimens still exist as well.

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I’m rather pleased with the Technic framing of the engine and rear section. Between the radiator vanes and the small spherical reaction mass tank, it actually looks like a semi-functional engine. This is a first for me, as I’m not one of those car geeks that fussily replicate all the intricate details of the Ford Model T’s engine compartment in bricks. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and I can make my interstellar wormhole drives or hyperspace engines or foldspace traversers or whatever look however I like, seeing as how they’re merely theoretical at best.

I need to get hold of a modern yellow helmet to be in keeping with all my other Classic Spacemen of my miniature System astronaut corps, but that’s for the future. If you’re going to use the visors, and I am, the modern helmet design really does look better.

TitanSpeeder

Kronos Colony. Primary outpost of the System on the Saturnian moon Titan and one of the most populous and important colonies in the outer Solar System.

Situated on the shores of the Ligeia Mare close to the mouth of the hydrocarbon river known as the Vid Flumina, Kronos began as a harvesting operation for Titan’s exotic hydrocarbons and nitrogen, but has grown into an important and diverse colony.
Titan’s liquid hydrocarbon rivers, lakes and seas make the usual mechs and rovers less fully useful for getting around, particularly in the polar regions where the majority of the lakes and flumina are. More than anywhere else in the System, Titan’s Kronos colony employs ground-effect speeders for the majority of its local transport.

Recently, rumours of a secret Blacktron separatist base in the Xanadu region of Titan have prompted an increase in patrols, and Keyshawn Friedman and Jan Meyerdahl pilot their R22 Avalon speeder across a spit of land jutting out into the Ligeia Mare. Titan was a big moon, however, larger than the planet Mercury. Surely the Blacktron couldn’t be anywhere close to such a large and important System outpost…?

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Okay, technically I built the speeder and then decided to locate it on Titan, but Titan’s an interesting place to put a Neoclassic Space outpost, and I decided it needed to be done.
All the locations on Titan are real astronomic features of the moon, for added realism. I’m not sure that black is necessarily the right colour for Titan’s liquid methane seas, but it works for modelling purposes.
Anyway, here’s my Titan-speeder.

Brightly-Coloured Tyranny

Blacktron bad, dark, evil, chaotic. Classic Space/Futuron/Space Police good, light, ordered.  It’s pretty much standard for interpreting the (lack of) story behind the shared universe of the earliest LEGO Space themes.

But what if we’re wrong?  What if the Blacktron are the good guys?

Yeah, they wear black and have ships with slightly sinister-sounding names like “Invader” or “Renegade”, but so what?  Batman wears black.

This would make the Space Police an evil instrument of tyrannical oppression, which TLG weren’t going to do back then (still probably aren’t) because they don’t want to be accused of teaching kids that regular street cops are villains.  However, we’re AFOLs, and we can do things with LEGO’s products and universe that might not be completely kid-friendly and inoffensive.  The idea of a tyrannical government and oppressive police force isn’t a new one and ought not to shock anyone.  It’s even been used in children’s literature: CS Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had the tyrant Witch Jadis’ chief wolf Maugrim be “Captain of the Imperial Secret Police”, to say nothing of more recent vintages like The Hunger Games.  I think even quite young kids can separate out police in a story from police in real life, especially in a fantastical or futuristic setting, though I can see where a toy company like TLG making their own, non-licensed merchandise with no tie-in to a particular story might not want to go there.

The more I looked at those old catalogue pictures and all the smiling happy faces of the astronauts, the more they looked like Lord Business’ propaganda in The LEGO Movie.  Maybe it’s because I spent some time in the former Soviet Union, but I was suddenly struck by a sort of New Soviet Realism take on the old catalogue images, complete with potential sloganry:  “Working Together For The Greater Good”, or “Bringing Peace To The Galaxy”, or “Be Happy; You’re In Spaaaace!”.  Unhappiness punishable by disappearance.

Developing the idea, I was originally going to call my Classic Space dystopia a “Federation”, inverting the moral polarity of the term that’s been adopted by fans for the Classic astronauts’ political unit ever since Reid and Goddard’s LEGO Space: Building the Future.  Possibly before.  But when I started thninking about how it might function and what the different suit colours represent (genetically determined caste system?), I had an alternative idea.  What if the “Federation” isn’t really a thing at all?  What if the different industries that make the civilisation work are divided up between massive megacorporations run by single corporate dynasties – a sort of Ayn Randian hypercapitalism gone horribly wrong, administered by the Yakuza and the Mob, with a Soviet-esque approach to information control?  Each suit colour might represent a different megacorporate First Family, with different industrial specialisms; for example the white suits might represent some kind of energy/resource extraction corporation – a TransOctan, if you will – whereas the blue suits might be an information-controlling media and communications giant – Bencom? – that manages the propaganda machine.

Welcome to the transcorporate brightly-coloured tyranny of the System.

In such a world, you can imagine that the Revolution picked black as a unifying colour, and countercultural, aggressive ship names that stand the shiny oppression and corporate propaganda of Dark Side rogue hypercapitalism on its head.  The Blacktron movement might be something akin to a political revolutionary movement – not socialism per se, because it’s the future and I’m sure they have new political movements.

Cernunnos-class Blacktron mech

I’m trying to write a story set within this universe, something like Peter Reid and Tim Goddard’s Building the Future, but kind of inverted.  I doubt the LEGO Group would fully approve of what I plan to do, but there are advantages to having no real plans to publish…

Like Reid and Goddard’s book, but unusually for me, all the action happens within the Solar System.  Even as a kid I usually interpreted the Classic Space theme as taking place on an interstellar level rather than merely interplanetary, but the requirements of story overrule.  However, my version of the Solar System is a lot more extensively colonised, including outposts on Mercury, asteroid bases carved into the interior of Pallas, nitrogen and hydrocarbon harvesting on Titan, and of course the usual suspects on the Moon, Mars, Ganymede and in orbit.

Exploring the surface of Mercury: the “Hellsuit” mech

Earth has an orbital ring (which I may try to build a section of): the Bifrost Ring.  I was initially considering multiple space elevators until a friend suggested this concept, and after doing some investigations I have to say I’m sold.

Massive megacorporations control everything, which is less cool, but that’s the essence of this universe.  There is a rebellion in the shape of the Blacktron Alliance, because stories thrive on conflict and I’m not going to leave the future in the hands of evil corporations if I can help it.

And the very first ventures beyond the Solar System are taking place:

Orion One transsolar explorer flying by planet Futuro

One Brick On Top Of Another

12×12 is a nice size for a scenery square or room corner. It’s big enough that you can exhibit repeating patterns and really give a sense of a larger area, but small enough to be manageable.

I originally built this to showcase my Classic Space robot George, only to realise that light bluish grey wasn’t necessarily the best background colour on which to display a light bluish grey robot. Honestly, you’d think I was slow-witted or something.

Still, I was quite pleased with my scenery-building, because it’s something I always feel like I suck at or don’t have enough pieces for. And once you have a piece of scenery you can use it for numerous purposes. It doesn’t have to be a display case for any one thing in particular.

 

The three 2×2 jumper plates with which I graced the top of the walls were originally placed there because I couldn’t find enough flat tiles just then, but then I realised that it would be quite easy to build a stackable second storey to be held on those 3 studs.

And thus began the modular stackable space scenery.

The balcony storey came next, because I liked the idea of an upper walkway overlooking some cavernous room of which this is but a corner. At only 3 studs wide, there’s not a lot of room up there, but it does its job. I think my favourite part of it is the handrail, actually.

After that I built a roof, and then, running low enough on 1xwhatevers in light bluish grey for more walls, I decided to shift colours and go to a rough-hewn dark bluish grey mining area.

So now I have 3 storeys of stackable modular space scenery, ready for whatever I want to do with them…