Building outposts , was Bluejay in Spaceships & Vehicles
uncle_jimbo Aug 12 2018, 10:50 Group: Grid Cop, 5éme Corbin Quote Post
Author (cobalt_phoenix @ Aug 12 2018, 18:13)
I actually don't think it would be that thrifty.  I would suspect that it instead runs into a couple of problems that would jack up the costs even more.

First, a large number of small craft would be needed to build it in any reasonable time frame.  Unfortunately, a large enough number of small craft would likely cost more overall than a single large ship, especially since I can see a number of companies who specialize specifically on transporting such structures and so you are only paying for the temporary use.  If you elect instead to build it using anywhere from one to a few small craft, I have a feeling you are going to run into the next problems.

Second, there is a potential to come back and find your previous supplies gone.  It could be stolen by others, taken by local creatures, destroyed by weather, or destroyed by the numerous issues that effect objects in space.  Yes, you can track large asteroids and comets to ensure none are likely to hit, but how about a meteor shower composed of millions of rocks sized between a ball bearing and a bowling ball?  Yes, you can defend against that, but you are probably talking about transporting the armor and defenses of the station first, along with the power plants, sensors, computers, and crew systems needed to operate them effectively all in that first load.  Now, that really shouldn't be a problem, but that probably is going to require more than just a couple of ships to pull off.

Third, radiation.  Leaving an incomplete station floating out in space is going to increase the amount of radiation bombardment it experiences.  If around a planet with an appropriate magnetic field, much of this can be averted (just like spacecraft in low earth orbit).  If, however, it is placed in such a way that radiation bombardment isn't mitigated, you could run into a problem where the interior of the station is too radioactive when complete for the crew to survive.


Personally, I would say this:  a single small craft could easily carry the equipment (such as fabrication facilities, mining systems, etc) to simply build everything for a station from materials on-hand.  The ship arrives, strip mines an asteroid (you need at most only one of them, given the average size of asteroids), maybe strip mines a comet (for water and air) and then uses the resources to build the station.  A second small craft arrives at a later date with the station's crew.  That would be my recommendation.


It's certainly not ideal to build a habitat slowly and piecemeal in a hostile location, while leaving the site unattended for long periods while small vessels come and go to other star systems. An entity seeking to build a station (leaving aside their reasons, resources and time constraints for the moment) should avoid doing it that way.

Assuming then that one construction vessel will bring everything required and remain in the system for the duration of construction (resupplied by others, of course, as needed), what can we say about that ship? It's an interesting discussion that should help with a number of other concerns.

What's required in equipment and time to locate a body of suitable ore to make a starship hull, then mine enough to build a station? How big is the plant required to smelt and convert the ore into hull material? Warships suggests that an Industrial hull is suitable as a mining ship, but perhaps this function can be smaller. These are hard questions. I might come back to them.

What's required to build a space station, which is more or less like a ship? Starships shows that a Type 3 spaceport can construct small craft. The smallest space station is bigger than a small craft, but the next alternative, that we need a Type 1 port, seems unreasonable. I might say that a specialised small Type 2 spaceport might be able to build a Light Ship and that a specialised Type 2 port can be as small as a general-service Type 3 port.

So how many Hull Points has a Type 3 spaceport? As discussed elsewhere, we don't really know.

Maybe I can break down actual operations and assume some additional space for design and management offices, housing and life support for construction workers and their supervisors, and so on.

It seems likely that a construction facility can manufacture systems and sections of a largish small craft or a light ship and then assemble them. Actually making a component must require an enclosed workspace with controlled conditions, larger than the object to be made. What components does the facility need to make? I don't think it's reasonable that the builders would try to make large reactors and the like in a frontier system. They'll ship those from more developed worlds. We're examining, though, how the station hull can be built in the system, so the construction vessel has to make complete enough bits of the hull that they only have to be fastened together to make a whole working structure. I might suggest those are hit location zones in Warships terms. A Light Platform's damage zones are probably similar to those of a destroyer: 6 zones of up to 44 Hull Points. It would really help to have several of these workshops, so the crew can work on more than 1/6 of the structure at once.

The complete station might be assembled within a purpose-built scaffold (not necessarily taking any extra hull space, but a bit more time) using small craft (which need hangars, crew and other support).

So with mining, refining, manufacture and assembly, to build a Light Platform on site, it's sounding like between 200 and 300 Hull Points, plus personnel spaces as mentioned, plus all the ship's flight and support systems and crew. That's well into Medium Ships, perhaps up to a Medium Transport to give a reasonable endurance for the task.

This post has been edited by uncle_jimbo on Aug 12 2018, 21:34
Guardian Aug 12 2018, 19:53 Group: Heroes, WarHulk AI Quote Post
Well, your hull requirements might not be that large. It depends on if you need to include a FTL plant, or if your manufactory is getting towed in by a tug and left to do the work. The latter would sound more like an approximation of the floating drill rigs the oil industry uses. You then have a Small Craft or two to rotate in crew members and bring supplies that may not be capable of local manufacture (specialty items like sensors or elements with IP protections like communications arrays).
cobalt_phoenix Aug 12 2018, 23:08 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
And this is when the fun begins! I haven't been posting too much of late, but I love these kinds of discussions.


Author
What's required to build a space station, which is more or less like a ship? Starships shows that a Type 3 spaceport can construct small craft. The smallest space station is bigger than a small craft, but the next alternative, that we need a Type 1 port, seems unreasonable. I might say that a specialised small Type 2 spaceport might be able to build a Light Ship and that a specialised Type 2 port can be as small as a general-service Type 3 port.

So how many Hull Points is a Type 3 spaceport? As discussed elsewhere, we don't really know.


First, let me respond to this.

Personally, I would use spacecraft hulls to peg this down. As you point out, a space station is pretty much a spaceship. The key difference is that a station generally doesn't have significant numbers of large engines to allow for fast travel. Instead, it would just have thrusters to provide station-keeping abilities.

For the case of a Type 3 spaceport, I would say you roughly need 400 HP. That would give you one hanger (which would make it easier to build small craft) of 40 HP that is only 10% of the station's hull. This opens up the Clipper (360 HP), Heavy Cruiser (400 HP), Medium Transport (480 HP), and Armored Cruiser (480 HP) as acceptable hull types. All of these hulls (with pretty much no engines) would have enough space for personnel, visitors, supplies, and manufacturing areas to build small craft. You should even have enough space for at least 2 hangers, both being 40 HP (enough room to build anywhere from 2 to 10 small craft at a time).

Of course you can go bigger, but I would say 400 HP is the minimum. Larger stations would be able to give you more room for additional hangers, people, equipment, and supplies.


Author
Assuming then that one construction vessel will bring everything required and remain in the system for the duration of construction (resupplied by others, of course, as needed), what can we say about that ship? It's an interesting discussion that should help with a number of other concerns.

What's required in equipment and time to locate a body of suitable ore to make a starship hull, then mine enough to build a station? How big is the plant required to smelt and convert the ore into hull material? Warships suggests that an Industrial hull is suitable as a mining ship, but perhaps this function can be smaller. These are hard questions. I might come back to them.


These actually aren't hard questions. What is the bar minimum needed for a spacecraft to build a space station out of an asteroid? Simple: two or three 3D (one for metal, one for plastic, and the third probably for electronics using supplies from the other two), a set of blueprints, and a well-stocked high school science lab.

It actually isn't that hard to turn the components of an asteroid into refined materials, if you know what you are doing. You can, in reality, turn iron ore into steel in your backyard, if you have the right equipment, which doesn't have to be a massive operation.

So what is the smallest ship size needed for construction? An 8-HP launch hull. You just need something large enough to house the items I mentioned above, an engine, a power plant, some robotic arms, some sensors (most would work well enough to find an acceptable asteroid, which I'll get to later), and a computer core to run an automated mining and construction program (I prefer drones for this, simply because they need fewer resources and you can program them to be literal experts at their jobs). You could use a 16-HP courier, just to give yourself more space for equipment, but it isn't required.

Now, it will admittedly take a very long time to build the station, but it is completely viable. If you want it to be built faster, use a larger hull. I think the industrial hull (which you mentioned, Jimbo) would be probably the ideal: cheap enough to build them in numbers with minimal investment, large enough to house plenty of equipment, and at a size to operate for long periods without resupply. A ship that large could easily house industrial-grade mining and production equipment, so it would probably be worth much more than just a dozen launch-sized builders. Interestingly, an industrial hull should also be large enough to carry a launch or courier to serve as a refueling ship, running between the main construction area to the nearest hydrogen source.

Again, though, you don't need a lot of crew members, so just using enough hydroponics eliminates most supply needs (just power, which you can use fusion plants to supply and there should be more than enough hydrogen within easy reach to supply it). The rest of the ship should be robotic, since it would far more efficient and reliable.

In fact, the only "resource" that can't easily be found on-hand in any star system is manpower. You have to ship people into the system, or at least to the construction area, but most of them aren't needed until the station is pretty much complete. Until then, you just need a small number of people.


So, how about what is actually needed to build the station in terms of resources. Again, this is simple: any asteroid large enough to have the materials, so perhaps about, say, 100 meters long and 25 meters across.

This is something that you have to remember: an asteroid is composed of some kind of rock, whether it be metallic nickle/iron, carbon-based, or silicon-based. Regardless of the type, all of them are usable, but you just need to adjust some of your building styles to take the materials into account. For example, a carbon-based asteroid is composed mostly of carbon compounds, but that means you can use it to produce carbon-based materials, such as carbon fiber, carbon nanotubes, carbon nanothread, and graphene, all of which are incredibly strong and light.

The next point on asteroids to remember is that asteroids are solid building materials. In contrast, a spacecraft or space station is mostly hollow, with most of its volume composed of air. So basically, an asteroid of a given size can yield enough material to construct an space station or spacecraft of a size much larger than itself.

A quick example. Let's say you have an asteroid that is composed mostly of hematite. We'll keep this simple and just say it is almost entirely composed of hematite, again just to keep it simple. Hematite has a specific gravity of 5.26, and specific gravity can basically be described as the density of the material divided by the density of water. That means that this asteroid has a density of about 5.26 g/cm^3.

This asteroid you are using is roughly shaped like a potato, but can also be described as a cylinder. It is 100 meters long, 20 meters across, and fills about 80% of the volume of an actual cylinder of its size. Now, that means it has a volume of:

(pi) x (20)^2 x 100 = 125663.7, rounded to 126,000 cubic meters to keep it simple.

80% of 126,000 cubic meters is 100,800 cubic meters. To keep it simple, we'll use that figure.

The specific gravity of hematite is 5.26, which is the density of hematite divided by the density of water. Again, to keep this simple, we'll just divide it by 1.00 g/cm^3, which would mean the density of hematite is 5.26 g/cm^3. Interestingly, a material's density as measure in grams per cubic centimeter can be directly translated as metric tons per cubic meter, so hematite also has a density of 5.26 metric tons per cubic meter.

An asteroid with a volume of 100,800 cubic meters and a density of 5.26 tons/m^3 has a total mass of hematite of about 530,208 metric tons (we'll round that to 530,000 tons). That mass alone is enough to construct basically any Warships hull below the size of a dreadnought (which as a lower mass of 600,000 tons). But we also need to do some chemistry.

Hematite is predominately Iron(iii) oxide, which contains 2 iron atoms and 3 oxygen atoms. It has a molar mass of 159.69 grams per mol. Iron has a molar mass of 55.845 g/mol, and oxygen has a molar mass of 16.00 g/mol, so 1 mol of hematite has 2 mols of iron and 3 mols of oxygen. However, the oxygen only contributes about 30% of the molar mass, while the iron contributes about 70%. That means that, of the 530,000 tons of hematite in the asteroid, you can pull about 371,000 tons of iron out of there.

So, for a total overview of this example, you have an asteroid that is roughly the shape of a cylinder measuring 100 meters long and 20 meters across. This asteroid is composed predominately of hematite, and has a rough mass of 530,000 metric tons, of which 371,000 tons can be converted into iron and then steel.

Inside of this one asteroid, you would have enough material to basically build 2 battleships (150,000 tons each), a heavy cruiser (50,000 tons), and about 7 frigates (at 3,000 tons each). Total hull points (in just the primary HP alone, no bonus) would be 3,640 HP (a total of 4,524 HP when you count bonus hull points, as well). That actually suggests that you could build a dreadnought out of it, and the asteroid's mass was only just below the mass of a dreadnought so you probably need to ship in some additional resources from a neighboring asteroid to complete it.

Now the fun part: there are about 25 million such asteroids in our solar system alone, and that is in fact the smallest category of asteroid.

So, yes, any star system with an asteroid belt or pretty much any star system period would have more than enough asteroids to crank out thousands if not millions of these stations, not to mention a few thousand fleets to defend them.
Guardian Aug 13 2018, 02:26 Group: Heroes, WarHulk AI Quote Post
You also need to remember that not all of the mass of that dreadnought is iron. You'll need plastics for seals, display panels, lighting, maybe some variety of fiber-optic cabling, etc. Nothing you can't get by skimming the atmosphere of a gas giant for some CHON elements.
cobalt_phoenix Aug 13 2018, 12:54 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
A good point, Guardian, though the reality is even more simpler than that. In that example, I stuck with solid hematite to keep it simple, but all asteroids will contain a large variety of materials. They are just grouped by the predominant material in their make up. So an iron/nickle asteroid will have at least some percentage of carbon, silicon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc within it. Even if it is only 1% of each, that is thousands of tons worth of material, and neighboring asteroids of other types should have more. So you don't even need to skim a gas giant, just find another asteroid of the right type (again, there are millions of them) and you're set.
Guardian Aug 14 2018, 01:10 Group: Heroes, WarHulk AI Quote Post
Yes, but you also ex hypothesi discarded all of the non-iron portions of the asteroid. I was just followed the rules you (implicitly) established.
cobalt_phoenix Aug 14 2018, 02:58 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
Ah. Sorry about that. I wasn't implying that you were wrong, just that the material you were looking for is closer at hand than the nearest gas giant.

You're right, I did say to discard the huge variety of materials and stuck with just an asteroid of solid hematite. I did that just to keep it simple (rather than having to work out what the totals would be using proportions of materials as they naturally exist), so you were following the rules I established in the example.

I will say, though, that I was just keeping everything simple. The mass of a ship, for example, isn't all metal, just mostly metal. The fuel, water, plastics, and even air that is contained within a spacecraft all contribute to its mass (though the air is only the smallest proportion of mass but likely the majority of its volume). That's why I say that pretty much any asteroid that is at least 100 meters long and 20 meters across (smaller in dimensions than a cruiser) will be large enough to build pretty much any large hull, with only a small amount of additional material needing to be harvested from other locations. In fact, you should be able to build multiple hulls out of any such asteroid.

That is also why it is pretty laughable when you hear something like in S*D where a star system is "worthless" or that it has been "depleted of resources". That would require either thousands of years of large-scale harvesting operations (which means that the system is full of megastructures featuring thousands of shipyards capable of turning out a dozen fortress ships each) or that the population basically only harvested the material that was the literal easiest to grab and moved on (think of a gold rush where the miners walked in, picked up the nuggets that were laying out openly in the grass and sand, and then declared the vein depleted).

Much of that has to do with a K2 civilization, which most science fiction doesn't handle very well (probably because the scale of one is too much for the mind to wrap around). Let me put it like this: a K2 civilization occupying a single star system like Sol would have more ships and people than pretty much any known science fiction setting. In Star Wars, the Empire built 10,000 star destroyers, but a K2 would be able to build them in the tens of millions. A single K2 in the Sol system would be able to build a fleet that was orders of magnitude larger than the combined might of the Stellar Ring, Verge, and Perseus arm in S*D.
derek_holland Aug 14 2018, 13:11 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
Are Star Drive vessels made with iron? Energy Age tech may allow for materials that have yet to be imagined in the real world.

Not that iron couldn't be used as a precursor, but one should consider advanced materials when working on such a setting.
cobalt_phoenix Aug 14 2018, 19:29 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
The answer, Derek, is "maybe, but we don't know". In the original Alternity books, neutronite was described as a tungsten alloy. Warships, however, changed it to steel. The Verge Compendium also notes that Thorn Shipyards uses the neighboring asteroids as a source to make steel for ship hulls (it's under the Talbot system section, though you will have to give me time to look up specific page numbers).

Regardless, I can still see iron used in advanced materials. If you really want to go high-end, though, you are probably going to see silicon and carbon especially as the building material (2D super-strong molecular crystal sheets, anyone?). Both are the main elements in the other two types of asteroids currently identified, and there are still millions of them. He'll, they seem to be more common than metallic asteroids, so it should be easier to find building materials if you want them.

This post has been edited by cobalt_phoenix on Aug 14 2018, 19:30
cobalt_phoenix Aug 15 2018, 01:29 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
A quick idea for building a spaceport that you could use is the Gateway Spaceport. This is pretty interesting modern concept for building spaceports in Earth orbit using modern equipment and technology. However, I can see it as a good baseline for building them in Alternity.

Some videos to watch:
A lecture describing how the concept works (runs about 50 minutes).
Issac Arthur's video where he features it (runs about 26 minutes).

Again, I can see the concept as a good way to build a science fiction spaceport. I can see a small fleet of commercial ships building the station with this.

- A mother ship that provides the FTL drive, hanger space, crew space, and crew resources for the operation, as well as material processing and command functions.

- One or more automated construction modules, used to assemble the structural frame work and hull plates for the station.

- One or more automated fabrication modules, used to build the various components that fill the hull (weapons, electronics, furniture, etc, though fabrics and other materials that take up a small amount of space can be shuttled in or loaded into a cargo hold on the mother ship).

- Two or more harvesting ships (of courier size) sent out to find and gather raw materials from asteroids, though you should be building the first spaceport near the primary source of material anyway.


Personally, I think all of that would need a medium hull to serve as a mother ship, but you still don't need a large number of people, and what materials you need to bring shouldn't be that bulky so you can stack a couple of cargo holds full and be good to go for at least opening operations.


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