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Apogee
An interplanetary yacht in microscale.
About this creation
Built from 2286 to 2289 this vessel was the first yacht to leave the solar system. Its 5 year trip beyond the Pluto orbit was not matched for a long time, partially for the lack of another yacht owner with the because-I-can attitude of Albus Page.



The yacht was created by the famous Blohm & Voss manufacturers, who have long been famous for their ocean-going mega-yachts of the 20st and 21st century. The ramjets from Siemens were originally intended for use in freigthers, but modified for higher cruise speeds.



The bridge provides a clear view of space ahead through a large panoramic window.



Unlike for most space ships proposed in Hollywood films, 'ahead' is of course up with respect to ship's gravity during acceleration. When braking, 'ahead' becomes down, and not even the most space-hardened crew likes to stand on a clear panoramic floor above a near endless vacuum. The Apogee will simply turn 180 degrees. The next image shows the Apogee as perceived in ship's gravity.



Escape pods are provided for emergencies. The two larger crafts can also land on medium-sized moons, though not on planets due to the limited strength of their drives. The Apogee herself is strictly space-bound and cannot touch down.



Other small space craft can land in the docking bay or connect via transfer tubes.



The owner insisted that he needs the calmness and inspiring scents of a forest when he ponders important business decisions. Business decision being important whether you are on a year-long trip around the planets or not, a garden was actually built below a spherical dome 35 meters across. At a mere 500 tons, the garden contributes surprisingly little to the overall weight of the craft.



The following picture shows a 3D view of the Apogee. Let your eyes look beyond the screen, then relax until you regain focus. You might have to adapt the zoom factor for this to work.



Astrogating



Flying a ramjet powered space ship is not quite as straightforward as one might think, especially when actually making use of the ramjet and and not just running on initial fuel.
The vessel typically starts from one of the Lagrange points of a planet or a moon. It uses minimum thrust, so that it does not endanger other ships that might orbit within a few hundred kilometers.



Once in free space, the fusion drive is switched to high power, typically 0.8 earth gravities for passenger convenience, but possibly higher if time is pressing and if it isn't fully fueled. After about one day the ship reaches 0.2% of light speed. Now the ramjet field can be activated, scooping up interplanetary gas. Depending on the gas density, some internal fuel will have to be used, too, to maintain the desired acceleration. Eventually, though, the ramjet will gather excess hydrogen, storing it back in the tanks.
Because the ramjet field causes a deceleration from dragging along interplanetary gas, the ramjet looses thrust at about 5% of light speed. At that point, the ship might still accelerate using internal fuel after turning off the ramjet field. Normally though, the fuel is simply used to generate a minimum of thrust to maintain the ship's gravity.



In order to enter the deceleration phase, the ship must turn, so that ship gravity still points in the correct direction. At high speeds or in high density locations (that is, a merely average vacuum by Earth standards) it is sufficient to activate the scooping field to brake for while. Failing that, the fusion drives must again be activated, running on internal fuel.
The ship may have to alternate between braking phases and phases during which new fuel is scooped when the reserves run low. While scooping the ship is minimally accelerated to maintain ship's up.



During all this time, the skipper must pay careful attention to the solar wind, irregular gas distributions, and turbulences, all which may require course adjustments days ahead of time. To this end, the Apogee carries a large array of sensors to assess the path ahead.
When arriving at its destination, the crew will once again have proven the old saying that space ships are sailed, not driven.

Making of


This model started with its engines, building with various wheels and trying to attach them unobstrusively to a surrounding frame.
I wanted to build a space ship without wings and generally without any consideration of aerodynamics. At the same time, I wanted to avoid the bulky look of freighters and military vessels. A big private yacht seemed the appropriate subject for such a model.
The ship should be believable according to basic physical principles. This means no artificial gravity and no strange drive concepts that violate the laws of thermodynamics. A ramjet which somehow manages to fuse hydrogen (as opposed to deuterium) using an obscure scooping field is just at the limit of this category.
I found the color scheme (white with primary color accents) quite fitting given today's taste of owners of mega-yachts with some extrapolation to a future when people may actually get their own space ships.
Owners of mega-yachts being, almost by definition, more than a little eccentric and next to unbelievably rich, the garden in space serves as a little reminder that, to yacht builders, not even the sky is the limit.
An LDD model is included, but this model is snotty enough that LDD does not manage to generate building instruction from it. But the model could be built, starting with the engines, mounting them in the middle part of the supporting frame, then building outwards to the sides and adding the buildings, the garden and the rescue pads last.

Comments appreciated!


Building instructions
Download building instructions (LEGO Digital Designer)

Comments

  September 27, 2012
Holy Wow. I love this. When I read "ramjet" I smirked... and then I read on, and I thought "genius!". I love how unconventional this is, but how correct for spaceflight. Real spaceships will be more like this, but yes, Hollywood and sci-fi designers... and me... are still hooked on nautical and aeronautical designs. This is a gorgeous design, and I'd love to see it built for real.
 
By Olaf Kummer
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LEGO models my own creation MOCpages toys shop ApogeeMicro-scale


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