The Big Picture
VSS 002 is a large project. As I continue to work with it the more it seems to grow. It's very involved and I have reached a point where in order to continue I will need to finish a series of smaller concepts first. This is especially apparent concerning the upper hull and flight deck.
To recap a bit, the upper hull will be made using a jigsaw puzzle approach. This will give strength and enable easy manufacture of parts -- a few identical parts need to be replicated over and over until the hull is complete. VSS 002 will follow the original VSS with a flight deck, middle deck, and bridge area. However, 002 flight deck will have to be custom made in order to help it fit with the upper hull.
So now I'm going to take a little pause to step back a bit and see the whole ship. Some screen captures will show the standard flight deck, the standard middle deck, and the bridge. It is assumed, however, that the middle deck will also have to be redone, and the bridge positioned more in the center of the middle deck, and probably elongated a bit. A secondary bridge may be placed on top at some point.
There are some opportunities to have a raised flight deck: a catwalk system could be placed between the top hull and the flight deck. This catwalk could become a series of weapon battlements. A Phalanx CIWS type system could be placed there, the Harpoon missile system too, many sci-fi type energy weapons, even rail guns, could also be placed along a catwalk. So the flight deck could be surrounded by a ring of weapons. Such a catwalk could become a deck all it's own -- a mini deck. This is only a possibility, though, an option, not a definite thing. But I am leaning towards it. Raising the flight deck does seem to offer some aesthetics for VSS 002 being a space ship.
A New Flight Deck (Second Look)
An alternative flight deck can be designed using the jigsaw puzzle idea. The new flight deck would be a bit wider than the standard, about as wide to cover the port/starboard walkways. It is also a possibility that the new flight deck could be "covered". I write it in quotes because I'm on the fence about covering the deck. The idea is small space ships, such as fighter craft like the Cobra Stiletto, could be ready to launch at a moment's notice already on the flight deck. But the deck is exposed to battle and the harshness of space. It might be possible to construct a hangar-like structure protecting the Stiletto's. If so, then such a structure would be hinged so a person can access the inside.
The Middle Flight Deck
A normal VSS has a middle deck between the two primary flight decks. This middle deck functions as a small flight deck for aircraft such as a Cobra Claw or Fang, and some VSS configurations have this "deck" as a submarine. As a space carrier, VSS 002 will also have this middle area.
On a recent DioWarriors TV video (available in YouTube) (watch the video here) I took a look at the middle deck and the jigsaw top hull and noticed the jigsaw offers the possibility of open access to the lower deck. For example, an elevator system could be implemented into the jigsaw construction -- simply remove a tile and place an elevator there. I like the idea. So I am now leaning towards an elevator system to move aircraft/spacecraft to and from the lower deck. And so I am also thinking the middle deck area could be designed for maintenance.
There are some other areas to pause and look more closely at. But I will place these thoughts and observations in another blog post. The top hull will eventually get a grid system for support. Some of the newer screen captures will show this. There's also issues concerning the bridge and possibly multiple bridges, and the aesthetics of pulling all of this together. Working on this project I am amazed at how easy it is to seriously customize the standard VSS into something very unique.
A New Flight Deck
After much thinking and discussing it's been decided that VSS 002 will not use the standard flight deck. Since I only have one standard flight deck to work with I wanted to see about raising the deck up a bit higher. This was an aesthetic decision on my part since 002 will use a custom roof/ceiling over the front half -- the half without a flight deck. The standard flight deck covers the rear half quite well, but 002 is twice as long as the standard VSS, so the length was beginning to present another challenge.
A few additional challenges have presented themselves. For example, I would like to use materials I have on hand. For a ceiling that covers the length the ship, I have wood that's about 3mm thick. It's good wood, but the VSS is a heavy ship and a flight deck needs to be added, the middle deck structure that goes between the flight deck also needs to be added, and there's still the bridge -- or bridges in 002's case -- and all that will add weight and stress. To raise the flight deck, as originally planned, there are some additional challenges, but it all comes down to weight and stress. So to address that I think I have a solution.
Please keep in mind that the VSS is designed to be broken down for transport and storage. The port and starboard walls are attached to the main structure by screws, but the screws function as hooks -- they don't actually clamp the walls to the structure. The main structure is the MDF floor and interior MDF walls which are thick and strong. The interior walls take the brunt of the weight from flight deck as well. So designing a custom roof/ceiling, one which is raised in the aft section, has it's own challenges. The solution I think is to shift support away from the interior walls and distribute it towards very strong bulkheads. These bulkheads will be 3D printed using a very strong formulation of PLA plastic that has a high anti-shearing resistance. The strong bulkheads will be placed strategically throughout the deck.
Attached to the bulkheads will be a series of joists spanning the width of the deck. These joists will also be 3D printed. There will be a lot of them. Joists will have to crisscross the deck. Some joists will support props -- catwalks, equipment, A/C ducts, and LED light strips -- but the primary purpose will be to support the ceiling which will be mostly wood reinforced with 3D printing.
The ceiling itself will be designed like a puzzle where tiles of wood attach to other tiles a certain way and lock into place. The ceiling itself will also have to have reinforcement. This will be mostly 3D prints of joists. Both the underside and topside will have joists. The joists will attach to the bulkheads. Exactly how they will attach I am still work on that. Current thought is that the bulkheads will have joists of their own, and the ceiling will have it's own network of joists. At some point the two sets of joists will meet and I'll have to determine how they will be secured.
So all the screen captures showing the joisting, bulkheads, and ceiling tiles are rough sketches. The joists do not have much joisting, only enough to get the idea across. This is because I have yet to determine the thickness of the parts. One nice thing about the CAD program used to design all of this is I can model stress points and see where I need to optimize a design. This takes time, and even a few hours depending on the design complexity, even with a fast computer. I'm not sure if I'll do that with this project, or even if it's actually necessary.
The bulkheads are going to be a topic for another article. Using specialized plastic and then attaching the bulkheads in such a way for the VSS to be disassembled for transport is worth a close look. Already designed with the bulkheads is the use of neodymium magnets. Because 002 is quite long parts of it can become difficult to align for assembly. A magnet can help align areas.
Seen in the various screen captures are the frames that will form the walkway. So I've already started this idea around the time when the overall layout was determined. Back then it was realized that there's going to be some need to have things like airlocks, docking ports, corridors, and battle stations. The main decks won't have enough room to put everything, but adding a walkway will, or at least enough room for airlocks and docking ports. The walkway also adds to the exterior aesthetics and prevents the VSS from looking too boxy.
The walkways are based on the DioWarriors Diorama System which is a modular system of floors and walls we have been designing for some time now. The walkways are based on these designs. One thing that makes a good looking Sci-Fi corridor are the use of bulkheads. The walkways will use frames and bulkheads will be attached to them. And, of course, all sorts of equipment can be attached to the bulkheads.
There are floor components and wall components and all kinds of surface details can be attached to them. I'll return to this idea a bit later. Reason is there are still parts that I'm unsure about concerning the VSS. At the moment my thoughts are questioning how the walkway will attach to the outer hull. But other than that, it looks like the idea will work and will work well.
First Look at Implementing the Flight Deck
VSS 002 will have several decks: two large decks, the primary flight deck, the middle flight deck, and the bridge. Deck 2 will have the engine room. Deck 2 will also have a walkway that along the port and starboard side of the ship. This is about as far as I've gotten with any certainty. The rest of the VSS has a number of issues yet to be addressed. For example, the flight deck: I only have one primary flight deck. The standard flight deck is enough to completely cover the lower deck structure, but 002 will be twice the length of the standard lower deck (two lower decks end-to-end makes one 002 deck.) So this means there will be half of a deck without a flight deck. So I'll have to find another means to cover the exposed deck.
The wood I have on-hand is thinner than the MDF board that the flight deck is made of. So I made a CAD model to see how VSS 002 will look with the flight deck and the thin wood. At the moment the images don't look very good, mostly because it's just too flat. The thin wood looks very thin as a covering for the upper deck, and placed next to the flight deck, even though the flight deck is a bit thicker, the whole thing looks too flat. What will be better would be to raise the flight deck a few inches higher than the top hull.
IMHO, the raised flight deck looks better. The big question is how much should it be raised? 125mm (a modern figure is around 100mm tall) is an okay height where there's enough room to have a figure standing. Thin wood can form a floor. This middle deck could become something like a battle deck where gun turrets are placed, or this "deck" can be simply for aesthetics and have things like hatches, missile compartments, automated gun turrets, but no people.
In My GI Joe Universe...
Here's an idea I'm having about implementing a Star Trek inspired "transporter" system with my VSS. Back in the 1980's Cobra tried conquering the world using a teleportation system called "the Mass Device." The system required some cutting edge technology and Cobra was able to acquire this tech and began transporting troops and threatening the world. They were stopped by the GI Joe team, but only after a desperate race around the world to secure three rare elements that powered the device. Now jump to modern times where Cobra now has the VSS -- Venomous Sea Serpent -- and in particular, VSS 002, a space carrier. Welcome to my GI Joe Universe!
Technology has changed since the 1980's. Computers are smaller, faster, and there's been a lot of advancements with all the sciences. Cobra has been paying attention to the changing times and has invested heavily on Research and Development, as it has always done. Now technology has progressed to the point where the three rare elements can either be synthesized or replaced with alternative substances or technology. The result is now Cobra can bring back the Mass Device and make use of it in much the same way as a Star Trek style "transporter."
Records are always kept, especially when the item is as complex as a teleportation machine. Whether Cobra directly has archived the old plans to the Mass Device, or MARS -- Destro's organization -- someone somewhere has the old plans. There's no reason why Cobra can not reinvest with the old tech and upgrade everything, taking advantage of newer techniques to get past the rare element limitations.
An alternative to shuttles is using a "space elevator" where cargo, including people, are transported up from ground level to low orbit using a lift. The only real practical way to implement an elevator system for that height would be something that doesn't rely on elevator cables, but instead can crawl -- maybe through a maglev-type system -- up the length of the structure. A space craft could then dock at the upper levels and load/unload the cargo.
But another idea, available to Cobra, is to engineer the Mass Device as a smaller "trans-mat" system. Such a system could be installed on a large enough vessel -- the VSS -- and implemented to transport personnel. During the first incarnation of the Mass Device, we saw that the amount of resources consumed by the device was proportional to the amount of matter being transported. In the case of transporting New York City off the face of the Earth, the consumption of the final rare elements was considerable. But transporting a single person or smaller groups of people from orbit should consume far less resources. And if Cobra can substitute the rare elements for alternative elements -- perhaps less efficient but readily available alternatives -- then a practical commonly used transportation system could be built.
One last thing, heavy water and the radioactive isotope that powered the original Mass Device seems easy enough to replicate in a lab -- heavy water is certainly not a challenge to replicate. The only one of the rare elements that might prove a challenge is the one obtained from a meteorite. That meteorite was a considerable size and last seen in possession of the Joe team -- so it must exist still in some government facility. The alternative available to Cobra is direct mining of the asteroid belt. It is hoped that the rare element exists commonly in space. Since Cobra can already venture into space, and make use of BATs for long term space missions, even without a VSS space carrier, mining the asteroid belt for resources is not beyond Cobra's ability.
Upgrading the VSS
VSS 002, being a space carrier, will make use of a smaller, upgraded teleportation system based on the original Mass Device. There should be some interesting dio-story potential with this as well: tracking down the original meteorite and stealing a sample for Cobra scientists to test the feasibility of synthesizing it can make for an interesting story. The same for recovering archived data, whether from a secret Cobra archive facility or direct from a government research site. In any case, VSS 002, once built, will certainly be used for dio-story potential, and the "return" of the Mass Device in Transporter form will be part of it.
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