Tag Archives: Spaceship

rocket, Rocket, ROCKET!!!!!

If Benny’s spaceship Spaceship SPACESHIP was a kind of modern distillation of the 1980s’ classic blue and grey ships, I guess this is a rocket Rocket ROCKET!!!

Jenny’s rocket, Rocket, ROCKET!!!

Piloted by a red-suited female astronaut (Jenny, presumably), this is my first honest-to-goodness stands-on-its-tail space rocket built as an AFOL, and I really can’t remember building one as a kid either.

Of course, back in the Days of Yore there weren’t nearly so many cool types of elements to build a rocket with. If you wanted a cylindrical rocket you had to build it out of 2×2 macaronis. And anyway, raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica (the original, of course) I thought that mere rockets were primitive. If I was going to Build A Spaceship, then by the mustache of Johnny Thunder it was going to be a galaxy-hopping hyperspace-stardrive evil-alien-butt-kicking Spaceship, not some namby-pamby rocket so primitive it worked by burning chemical fuel.

Engine section detail

These days, my latent retrofuturism is a lot closer to the surface. I actually have a sense of nostalgia now, and the idea of building an “old-fashioned” rocketship is a much friendlier one.

Built in NCS colours because SPACESHIP!!!, this isn’t even the largest Neoclassic Space rocketship I could build. There are several elements in my inventory that are pretty rocket-y and yet I chose not to use them.

But it’s definitely a rocket.

I was surprised to find myself actually using the Technic-tracks-wrapped-wrong-way trick. I’ve seen other people use this before but I’ve never been particularly inspired by it, especially on an NCS creation. But several Classic Space vessels used black (in other locations than the “bumblebee” hazard stripes), for example the Space Dart and the Gamma-V Laser Craft, and I find myself liking the look here. I may even do that again.

Cockpit capsule detail

The diminutive cockpit, capsule or miniature reusable shuttlecraft (I’m not sure which) perched atop the main body is the most conventionally Classic Spaceship-shaped part. Again, this was by design. I could have built this as a pure conventional rocket, but I wanted to build something that had at least one crewmember, and what’s the point of building something with a crewmember if she’s invisible?

If that’s not a capsule of a sort perched on the apex, then this is an SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit) rocket of a type beloved by 1950s sci-fi but which we’ve yet to figure out in practice. I think I prefer that idea, on reflection. It seems a bit of a waste to have that whole glorious bottom section with its ring of drive units and its fins and its minor greebling all be disposable.

3/4 Side angle

I’ve got some eventual ambitions toward a proper 1950s-comic-book-style Dan Dare/Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers rocketship with trilateral symmetry and a fully-fitted-out interior, but that’ll probably have to wait on the acquisition of more bricks. Jenny’s 1980-something rocket, Rocket, ROCKET!!!! is a nice start in that direction, though.

One more time: rocket, Rocket, ROCKET!!!!


Trans-Siberian Spaceship

As I mentioned last time, I’m something of a convert to Russian space vehicles. Underappreciated in the West, they are frequently dismissed as low-tech, clunky and unfinished, and I’m a serious sucker for the underappreciated. And the stuff undoubtedly works. Gagarin’s Vostok capsule was bigger and more sophisticated than the tiny American Mercury spacecraft, and the venerable, reliable Soyuz is still going strong as one of the major servicing vehicles for the International Space Station. So what if it looks like a steampunk tin-can beside the sleek American Space Shuttle or the new Orion capsule? It travels in vacuum. You don’t get extra points for streamlining. Indeed, I suspect the near-steampunkiness of the Russian design aesthetic is part of its charm for me.

I decided to take my enthusiasm for Soviet Space Race-era vessels and see if I could build something in the same sort of style but for a grander purpose. What would a Russian-designed near-future crewed interstellar spaceship look like, for instance?

Исстребитель-1 (Isstrebitel’-1; “Explorer 1”) is the result. Using Coruscant planet elements and balloon segments I’ve tried to retain the multispherical, modular look of vehicles like the Soyuz capsule, but on a larger scale.

The vessel has a nuclear drive, possibly a variant of the 1960s American NERVA design in keeping with the typical Russian approach using lower and more reliable technology with a bit more brute-force-and-ignorance and a bit less experimental bells-and-whistles. However, even a nuclear rocket isn’t going to provide enough thrust to make interstellar flight practicable for human crews. It’d be like trying to cross the Pacific in a bathtub powered by an outboard motor: even leaving aside weather and waves, the amount of fuel you’d need would result in you having to tow a nearly aircraft carrier-sized barge, and an outboard motor just can’t reasonably accelerate that much mass. Space engineers call this the “rocket equation”, and it’s the reason we need magic spacedrives for galactic sci-fi. A NERVA-style nuclear rocket alone isn’t going to cut it for interstellar.

Taking my cues from Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor’s Boundary series (specifically, the second book Threshold), I’ve chosen to provide Исстребитель-1 with a “dusty-plasma drive” (or “Nebula drive”, to use the poetic name) in addition to its nuclear rocket.

I like the idea of the dusty-plasma drive. Consisting of a mass of reflective near-nanite “smart dust” particles suspended in a magnetic field around the ship, it combines the low-mass advantage of the magnetosail and electric sail with the greater accelerative capacity of a solar sail. It’s an elegant concept and not that far beyond our current abilities. And when it comes to taking strange fever-dreams and making them a reality, Russian engineers really are something else. Exhibit A: the Tsar tank. Exhibit B: Obyekt 279

Between the constant acceleration provided by the dusty-plasma drive and the strategic boost from firing up the nuclear rocket at the proper point in a slingshot orbit around Jupiter (and potentially Nemesis, if it even exists), the transit time between stars might even drop to something halfway reasonable like decades rather than hundreds or thousands of years.

To a certain extent, what kind of drive system it’s got is irrelevant. I’m only building a LEGO model. But the clunky realism of Russian spaceship aesthetics sort of promotes a hard-science sort of ship, so I feel like I want to use something that’s at least a reasonable near-future possibility. Maybe they get an additional boost from a double slingshot around Proxima and Alpha Centauri A and B, and push their velocity up to the 60%-plus-of-lightspeed range…

Anyway, this is my neo-Russian interstellar space probe, Исстребитель-1. I hope you like it.


Federation Scorpio-class destroyer

Modeling your sci-fi vehicles after living creatures is nearly always cool, but the peaceable Classic Space Federation are probably the last people you’d normally associate with the idea of building hardware shaped like a scorpion.

Nevertheless, in a fit of irony I’ve assembled this scorpionoid spacegoing destroyer, and it’s one of the most overarmed spaceships I’ve ever built. Goodness only knows what the power requirements on this thing are when it’s firing all of its guns…

What I’m calling the Scorpio-class destroyer started out as a prospective ground vehicle designed around those front arms. It wasn’t even specifically going to be a scorpion at that point.

It was only after I decided I didn’t like the looks of it as a rover and added the ball cannons that I specifically decided to turn it into a scorpion ship, because those cup-and-ball-mounted guns make wicked legs.

In the past I’ve specifically eschewed the use of the term “destroyer” for my Federation spaceships. It’s always seemed too aggressive and militaristic and, well, destructive. In my version of the Classic Space Federation, larger vessels are typically cruisers and smaller vessels are frigates, both of which terms have enough history as not specifically naval vessel types to sound somehow more peaceable. However, destroyer was really the only choice for a vessel with this many guns on it, so I’ve built my first ever Classic Space destroyer.

With engines that small, I doubt it’s any speedster or hyperagile transorbital combatant, but if its anything like its design namesake it’s at least well-armoured. Warships typically emphasise a maximum of two of the triad of armour, firepower and speed, and I’d guess that what the Federation designers decided to de-emphasise in this particular case was speed.

This isn’t the most adventurous spaceship model as far as technique is concerned, but I rather like it anyway. Who would have guessed that a scorpion would look so good in blue? Or that a scorpion could serve as such a natural-seeming model for a spaceship rather than a surface tank?

Skeleton Crew

Halloween or Día de los Muertos would probably be a more appropriate season for this one than the time around Thanksgiving, but as someone who builds Ice Planet battle fleets at the height of a Texas summer I seem to have a bit of a thing for unseasonal building.

Yes, it’s a skeletal space fleet. I told you everything’s cooler in space.

I’m not sure whether these ships are crewed by the undead or just an interplanetary tribe with a strong skull-and-bones fetish, but if you’re dealing with zero-gravity and vacuum then it really doesn’t matter what your ships look like. After a certain technological point it becomes “why not?”

So, a skeletal fleet.

I built the large ship first and then scaled down, with the tiny vessel next and then the intermediate one that looks like it’s got some Klingon in its ancestry. It’s sort of bizarre how much I want to build with white exactly when my daughter is using most of our stocks of that colour, but bloodymindedness is something of a personal trait, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, it’s a little frustrating. Maybe she’ll let me break up her model soon, and then I can go back to wanting to use grey and blue. Or green; I haven’t used green as a major colour in a build for what feels like ages.

Anyway, enough of my random musings on colour choices! I built a skeletal starship, then turned it into a small fleet. The big ship is called the Orcus, after the Roman god of death; the smaller ships are the Vulture and the Scarab. Don’t ask me to make any more, because I really am out of white now.

Just A Cockpit With Engines

Balancing out my last Blacktron space fighter, I decided to build another one in the Classic Space prototheme’s secondary palette.

XK-7 Space Fighter

Then, too, I had some ideas for a double-cockpit fighter with a rear-facing tailgunner, like the Star Wars Rebel snowspeeder.

The execution of the cockpit is fairly old-school and simplistic. I’ll admit it could be better done, but I didn’t realise when I started building how many of the household’s white bricks were in use on a model of the head of a some web-comic character made by one or other of my daughters. I could have gone with regular Classic Space colours, but I don’t have two matching trans yellow windshield elements of any type I wanted to use, so I decided to go ahead and build in white anyway. It doesn’t make that much of a difference.

The mass of cockpit area is pretty extreme on a ship this small, so I’ve tried to go for broke on the cockpit interiors, with actual pilot’s chairs, a rack for the airtanks, fancy controls and computer support. I’m not often this detailed in my cockpit modeling, but with so much of the model the otherwise blandly conventional blue windscreen cockpits, I really had to.

The other place I’ve been really experimental is with the engines. The ship is practically nothing but a cockpit with engines, so there isn’t a lot of other place to do anything, but the twin drives show some semi-experimental down-side-out technique that is a bit fragile but which I rather like the look of.

The wings, similarly, are diifcult to keep in place when swooshing, but I like the way they look.

The undercarriage was a necessity because of the way the engines hang down below the bottom of the cockpit section. It’s a little primitive in front, and a little weird in back, but it does the job of raising the engines off the deck.

All in all, while I’m not quite as satisfied with this as I am with the Black Horus, I’m viewing this as a fairly successful technique testbed.

Unusually for me, it doesn’t have a name. I’m out of inspiration for names (a rarity for me), so this is the XK-7 space fighter. Long live meaningless numbers!

Black Horus

Blacktron Black Horus-class heavy fighter

The Blacktron Alliance space fighter designated the Black Horus-class is a jump-capable heavy fighter designed for long-range combat operations without carrier support.

Quite a large vessel for a single pilot, the Black Horus‘ mass is considerably less than it appears from the ship’s dimensions, due to the open-framed, near-hollow design. The design is in part a reaction to Federation targeting software, which tends to target the visual centre of a detected spacecraft; in the case of the Black Horus this can result in the beam passing right through without impinging on the physical structure.

The class is well-armed, with twin heavy lasers forward and a pair of large antimatter accelerators at the wingtips. A small bomb bay containing fist-sized neutron detonators allows planetary strafing runs, sometimes earning the Black Horus a “space bomber” designation.

Much of the craft’s mass is concentrated aft between the four curved wings. This centre of mass includes the plasmatic realspace drives, a small jump engine and galactic coordinate calculator, as well as antimatter reactors and reaction mass. The antimatter accelerators at the wings contain their own self-contained antimatter sources for firing; they do not use general reaction mass.

The forward cockpit contains control systems and life support, as well as a set of small manoeuvring thrusters allowing a severed cockpit section to function as an emergency life pod.

The pilots of the Blacktron Alliance’s Space Flight Corps tend to view Black Horus flight crew as unimaginative plodders, and certainly the craft are not as agile or sexy as the lighter Nighthawk space superiority fighters. However, the Horuses‘ combination of strengths together with their individual jump drives give the craft something of a following in the Space Fight Corps, and Black Horus pilots tend to view their Nighthawk counterparts as hyperactive adrenalin-junkies.


It seems like a while since I built a minifigure-scale Blacktron space fighter, but this blog’s post history shows that it was only a month or so back. Nonetheless, I got inspired for a space fighter. What’s the point of having Blacktron astronauts if I never build anything at minifig scale?

Obviously, there’s a lot of TNG-era Romulan Warbird in this ship’s design inspiration, but the D’deridex (stupid name)-class Warbird is one of the best-looking ships from the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe.

The general configuration seems to work just as well scaled down to space fighter size as it does in a massive (for Trek) war cruiser, and even though I initially intended a rounded cockpit shield I rather like the more sharklike, aggressive angular windscreen.

With that much Warbird in its ancestry, it needed an avian sort of name, but every raptorial name I tried on it didn’t seem to fit. It doesn’t look like an Eagle, a Goshawk, a Peregrine or a Kestrel. Vulture didn’t seem right, and neither did Osprey. Black Horus, though, seems to fit. Named after the hawk-headed Egyptian god of the morning sun, its solar, light-referencing background seems at odds with Blacktron darkness, but this is the Black Horus.

The ship has undercarriage which sort of retracts. The front undercarriage pads fold down sideways, while the single rear landing leg retracts into a recess in the hull. It’s not the best undercarriage in the world, and it makes the ship sit at a slightly odd sloped angle, but it technically has retractable undercarriage.

Likewise, the Blacktron insignia may be a little wonky-looking, but it’s sort of home-made. They are a couple of element 4297079 (the triangular sign with clip) that I’ve added black triangles to with a dry-erase marker. Which is about what I bought those for, and no permanent damage to the bricks.

The Ring of Gyges

You may have noticed, but I find mythology a fascinating source of names for my various LEGO spaceships and mechs and rovers and whatnot. And this small starship is no different, being named the Gyges-class cruiser.

The Ring of Gyges was a magical artifact from Greek mythology, mentioned by Plato in his Republic. Purportedly owned by King Gyges of Lydia, a Greek colonial province in what is now mainland Turkey, the ring granted the power of invisibility, much like Tolkien’s One Ring did.

Given its ring-shaped drive section, it almost had to be named after some kind of mythological or fictional ring or other. Nazgul-class would work for a Blacktron vessel, but this one is in Classic Space colours, and it just doesn’t work. It was almost Nibelung-class, or Avebury-class after the British stone circle that was constructed contemporary with the Great Pyramid. I suppose the main hull of the ship is even somewhat menhir-shaped, so that would have worked quite well.

However, I seem to have formed a connection in my mind between Classic Space designs and Greco-Roman mythological names; somehow they just seem right, you know? Ergo, Gyges.

I confess to being a bit of a sucker for both ring-shaped drive sections and for vertically-oriented ships, and this is both. The Vulcan cruisers from Star Trek: Enterprise were some of the most stunningly unique vessels produced by that entire franchise, and I loved them, especially the ring-shaped warp drive unit. It made me wonder why humans had kept on producing ships with nacelle designs, if the Vulcan ring drives were capable of such superior performance. Still, this being Trek it would have been the height of weirdness if the archetypal Federation saucer-and-nacelles design were Vulcan in origin and the humans produced very different-looking ships…

The oval ring section rather reminds me of the Odyssey, heroic starship of the awesome 1980s Greek-mythology-in-space cartoon TV series Ulysses 31, except turned on its side. The rest of the ship is very different, though; more like Star WarsJedi Starfighters with their hyperdrive rings. If there are other ring-shaped starships or starships with ring-shaped drive sections out there, I’d be interested to see them. Like I said, I’m a sucker for their implicit coolness.

Gyges is probably about the same length as a World War 2 cruiser or battleship if it were Real Life, with the trans red studs all around the ring representing the stardrive. I’m suspecting it uses something like a point-to-point artificial wormhole generator or similar; mostly because most of the sci-fi I’m familiar with uses something else: Star Trek has its warp drive; Star Wars and Babylon 5 utilise hyperspace; Stargate SG-1 used point-to-point gates, and Halo has some kind of foldspace, if I recall correctly. Using wormholes as stardrives sounds both plausible and uncommon, so it’s recommended on at least two counts.

I have no idea whether it’s even armed. The only obvious weapon candidates are the bar projections on the ring section and the twin cannonlike attachments on the sides of the main hull, but I’m thinking the bar projections around the ring are concerned with the wormhole drive’s functionality, and the “cannons” on the main hull just seem more like some sort of sensors or probe launcher. Probably it has at least defensive lasers, but I expect they’re too small to see at this scale.