Bulkheads and Launch Tubes
Welcome again to the eleventh segment of building the VSS 002. There are several kinds of bulkheads being used for this project. Some are for strictly aesthetic purposes, but most function a vital role for structural support. The most important bulkheads will be used to support the top hull. In a standard VSS, the top hull would be the flight deck made using MDF wood. With 002 the top hull is not the flight deck. The top hull is an actual hull and the flight deck is supported on it. There are also smaller bulkheads throughout the ship. These will serve both an aesthetic and functional role. Aesthetically they will help visualize that the VSS 002 is a military spaceship, and function for supporting the ceiling and serve as mounting points for attaching shelving, tables, and equipment. And still another type of bulkhead will be located in the walkway section. These will have a strong sci-fi look. And still another type of bulkhead will be located in the walkway section. These will have a strong sci-fi look.
Around the decks, along the walls there will also be frames and greebles. The walls themselves will have a layer of greebles, and around doors, hatches, and windows will be a reinforced frame.
Along the port and starboard sides there will be launch tubes. Two, in fact, one on each side. These launch tubes are designed for the Cobra Stiletto.
To support the new top hull a system of supports needs to be created. Unlike the standard flight deck which functions as the top hull by resting directly on the walls, the new top hull will be made of several smaller tiles of wood and ABS. These tiles will connect like a puzzle. To give strength each tile will be reinforced by a 3D printed beam. The beams will crisscross all over the top hull functioning as a joist. To further give strength and help prevent sagging, bulkheads will be strategically positioned supporting the joists.
Welcome to round two.... At this point building the VSS 002 has entered the final design stage. Because I'm going up against a hard deadline -- JoeFest 2021 -- I don't have the luxury to dwell in design mode for too long. 3D printing takes time and many of the large parts that need to be 3D printed will take hours, even a full day, and there are many of these parts.
Engine Room - The Final Take
The engine room will stick out an extra two feet from the main structure. It will be designed like a box that will slide into the VSS. To help give the VSS that spaceship look, I decided to use as many angled structures as possible. There will be a network of reinforcing beams ribbing the top and bottom of the engine room "box". These beams will keep the shape of the engines even when walls are removed for accessing the inside or for taking photos.
Please note that there is still much work to do. The thruster units need to be supported and not resting directly on the floor, and the entire rear of the engine room needs to be sealed up. Beams and such need to be added to the outside of the side walls, and on the inside greebles need to get done.
One thing that I like about having this ribbing structure is that equipment and machinery can be attached to the outer hull. Weapon turrets added too, as well as armor and other interesting things.
It was asked if the VSS 002 will have launch tubes. The answer is yes. At the time the question was asked I had only showed walkways along the port and starboard sides. I wanted to add more to the VSS and since I also do toy photography, having a long walkway with bulkheads, airlocks, and loads of equipment was important, but the main superstructure itself simply did not have the room for vehicles, maintenance, crew stations, and then a corridor. So I had to go external to the outer hull. But the suggestion for launch tubes never left my mind.
The Cobra Stiletto makes an excellent fighter. Nothing like a Star Wars or BSG, but in the realm of GI Joe, the Cobra Stiletto makes a formidable opponent. For the VSS it is a good size too -- small, dart-like. It can be moved around the inside of the VSS fairly easily and move into position to be catapulted into space. So a launch tube capable of supporting a space fighter the size of a Stiletto became my goal.
The walkways are now up-side-down and I am a little concerned about that because I didn't intend them to be in this position. But in terms of looks, up-side-down looks good with the launch tubes above them. Someone had asked why they were so large, being simply walkways. My goal with them was for them to be large enough that two figures could walk side-by-side, and have props such as computers and machinery along the side and mounted to the ceiling above the figures. There would also have to be enough room to have some good looking Sci-Fi bulkheads. All of this takes space to look right.
From here on out the design has to be ready to 3D print. I no longer have the time to experiment. I like the way the engine room looks with the ribbing, and that structure offers potential for mounting all sorts of machinery and things to the outer hull. All that will take away the boxy look of the VSS's hull and lean itself towards a Sci-Fi look. I would like to add beams and ribbing to the outer hull, but I may have to leave that for last.
A Longer Bridge
A month ago I was experimenting with setting up a new photoshoot with my figures and the VSS. For this shot I wanted to highlight a new prop when I noticed how interesting the view was seen through the bridge's windows. I grabbed a second bridge and started imagining a completed VSS with a view from the second bridge.
Using two bridges with the VSS actually looks good.
The primary bridge is going to be stretched -- elongated -- so that it can have more items in it -- a station showing a world map or star charts, or even a holographic representation of the VSS, USS Flagg, Earth, or some other target. The bridge would also need a way to access the lower decks by stairs or some sort of elevator. Stretching the bridge a bit can enable these additions. But what would I use the second bridge for?
The Top Hull Grid
Now things with VSS 002 begin to get a little more complicated. Some screen captures show the top hull with a grid structure crisscrossing all over it. If this was the standard VSS, then the "top hull" would be the flight deck. The standard flight deck would rest on the port and starboard walls and the interior walls. It is those walls that would give the standard flight deck support and keep it leveled. But VSS 002 will not use the standard flight deck. So the whole support system will need to change. A series of joisting structures will become this new support system.
The top hull of 002 is made of tiles interlocking like a jigsaw puzzle. Removing a tile can allow for access to the lower deck. A structure can then be placed in that opening, such as an elevator. The big challenge, though, is channeling the weight of the flight deck to the series of strong bulkheads. Inside each deck will be a series of very strong bulkheads. These will be like pillars of a building and will hold the weight.
Next time I'll talk a bit about the overall aesthetics. Right now VSS 002 looks boxy, but you can see the space ship characteristics beginning to take shape. There's a number of ways to shape the space ship look. Some things will remain looking boxy while other things will be adjusted. All of this is like sculpting, and little-by-little the space ship look will begin to surface.
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.
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