DEWDROP: A different kind of space vehicle

United Earth Space Agency Manned Space Vehicle DEWDROP
The first space-elevator/heavy-lift launch hybrid

I dreamed up this little gem earlier in the week and decided it was worth developing into a short animation. These stills are from the file that I’ll use for all the closeups. There’s a camera shake that can’t be seen but which imitates the look of the long-lens cameras used to track manned space launches since the Mercury program days.

The particles are a royal pain in the rear to manage, but look pretty good, I think. I still have a lot of texturing, greebling and detail work to do, and I also have other sequences in mind, one of which uses an incredible cloud-scape I found on the web and was able to get permission to use for a background.

A bit of a break from Neziņa, which will be much longer-term. I hope to have this project ready for final renderings by end of next week.

Why ‘DEWDROP’? Because as it rides the elevator cable up into the stratosphere it sort of resembles a droplet of dew on a strand of spider web. Sounds like a funny name for a spacecraft, but one of the early LEMs in the Apollo program was named “Gumdrop,” so it’s not that far-out after all. :smiley:

It looks incredible. Can’t wait to see the final animation.

The modelling and texturing looks fantastic I am anticipating a very interesting animation.

Modeling is exeptional as wella s the composition. I just go one critique on the techmical side of thimgs. One of the benefits of a space elevetors is supposed to be the propellant. I mean no more dangerous combustion. Instead electric, most likely my microwaves in that setup. Also no stage separation simply because it would not be needed. After all the thing needs to be as light as possible in order to carry the maximum cargo.

Otherwise the craft looks awesome, and Dewdrop is an awesome name.

Thanks for the comments, space cadets! :smiley:

@DDD – I agree completely. A space elevator/heavy lift hybrid is pretty much an engineering oxymoron. But it was part of a design consideration for a possible freelance job, so after mulling it over, I figured there might be some justification for it, not the least of which is getting the passengers (it’s not a mule-ship, actually) through the Van Allen belts as quickly as possible. Then after designing her, I started thinking of the visual possibilities and couldn’t put it aside.

A slow crawl up a cable isn’t nearly as cinematic as a jet-powered launch, either. OK, I went a little “Hollywood” with the concept, but not without paying due respect to the physics and the rationale, and even some to the engineering, though that’s pretty far-fetched. For example the configuration of the ship requires a special shape to the “counterweight” on the cable in geostationary orbit. Generally this is thought of as a rock or other mass about the size of a small asteroid. But in my concept it’ll be a long thin rod of extremely dense material like depleted uranium – maximum mass for minimum volume – that the final stage sort of slips over like a bead on a string as it heads out into a rendezvous trajectory. I even have some gonzo engineering planned for that part – high-pressure jets from tanks of compressed gas (nitrogen?) are released in the inner cavity after the tractor portion is left behind on the cable. This provides a hyper-fluidic “lubrication” layer that keeps the ship from impacting the head of the elevator as it slides over it at huge velocity. It means more particles work :eek: but would look pretty dramatic backlit by the sun with the limb of the Earth far below.

And regarding overall weight, because it launches well up the gravity well, less fuel will be needed, plus if we have the materials tech to build the elevator cable (carbon nano-filaments, most likely), then an ultra-light but ultra-strong superstructure for Dewdrop is a gimmee :wink: By the time an elevator is really feasible, I think metals will be replaced in large part by specialized carbon & carbon-ceramic analogues.

How’d you get the exhaust streams composited into the scene? I assumed you used some Blur nodes on your particles, but how’d you composite them so the nozzles block the camera’s view of some of the exhaust? Especially since they’re blurred. An example .blend of the technique you used to get the exhaust streams would be amazingly useful. Any information you could provide would be appreciated hugely!

P.S. I stand in awe of your compositing skils. :slight_smile:

Don’t be too impressed, since the only compositing is the blurry clouds in the BG (not that noticeable in the stills). But your comments are much appreciated nonetheless.

The particles are rendered solely as part of the scene, and the softness of the vapor trails and the “blur” of the exhaust is due to material specs and to some extent to the vector blur. Getting those materials to work was nearly as problematic as the particle systems. But they are just variations on the Halo base particle – alpha, diffuse, halo size & hardness – and their appearance also hinges on the particle specs. Quite a balancing act that is very scene-specific. I’m working on a long shot now and I’ll probably have to completely re-work everything for it to look the way I want – for this task I am considering using compositing.

It looks pretty darn good! =D

the idea is not bad… I mean to do that for real. The render is cool also :slight_smile:

@ Hanako: Thank you!

@ BennyFlex: Heh, I wish :smiley: But the engineering is really too fanciful, at least according to today’s tech. Maybe in the future the concept might have merit, though. One never knows.

Latest WIP shots:

I’ve done some paint detailing and greeble work on the model, and have a rudimentary story sequence begun. The shots with cloud & Earth BGs all use a multiplane animation setup using a separate Scene with orthographic camera configured rostrum-style and piped through a Render Layers node in the Compositor. The art in those setups is alpha-masked plates made from individual stills, applied to flat planes and using Shadeless shading. They are animated to provide a pseudo-parallax that really increases the sense of space in these shots, but is pretty “cheap” to produce.

Cloudscape by Sudipta Singh,, © 2004 Sudipta Singh. Used with permission.
Cloudscapes from free wallpaper images offered by J. Frank Carr,
Earth images by NASA, JPL and assorted divisions

:cool:Great renders:cool:

LEt me give you an ideea for your concept: the boosters could be modules that remain behind on the cable (why throw them out?:confused: the recovery costs:rolleyes:) so when the drop comes back, the assembly is automatically done again and it’s ready for another cilmbing. :smiley:

The recent progress is looking to be very interesting; I am impressed by the creative aspects, and quality of this project. In your next post could you provide the approximate real scale of the capsule? Judging from the size of guide (i.e. my assumptions about the nature of the “pipe”) in relation to the earth I am assuming that the capsule is quite large.