Orion Interstellar Spacecraft

So here’s a WIP I’ve got going of everybody’s favorite “put put” spaceship, the Orion interstellar nuclear-powered spacecraft. I’ve based the design on Rick Sternbach’s schematic (actually got his permission!) that’s in Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos.

Yes, it kinda sucks right now. It’s still kinda blocky and in the modeling stage, but anyway, please fire away with ideas / improvements / critiques to help me keep going with this. I have a tendency to start a project and just get frustrated because of my skill level. Usually I’ll give up and start something else, but I want to stick with this one to improve my blendin’ skillz! Oh, and I don’t have to necessarily follow Sternbach’s design exactly. I don’t mind elaborating on it…I just needed a starting point.


I can’t say I’ve heard of Rick Sternbach (Is that bad?), but so far, I like the Model.

Just a few ideas I’ve had…Feel free to ignore them of course hehe

The Back End - If thats just one booster…ouch, thats a big booster lol I always like to think of being as realistic as possible (Even with Spacecraft lol), but you could always have small ones (especially if it is a Cargo Ship or such). Maybe Break down the boosters into a few smaller ones. This is one I made a while ago that I’ve kinda given up on (was going to be a cartoony SpaceShip), but you get the idea of what I mean.

I take it the middle section will spin? hehe Alot of people do that (since 2001 I think?), but its good, and means that you can simply create one model and copy it four times without anyone really paying attention :wink:

Is the front going to be the Cockpit? Or will there be a seperate bridge spawning out (is that the right word?) from another section. Cockpits always seem to go to the front, why not be different and have one at the middle (like an Aircraft Carrier?) or something similar. Obviously when you get down to the details it will greatly improve, and I can’t wait!

Overal though, its a good base to start from. I’ll keep an eye out for it definitely, and can’t wait for the details (my mind is already making of list of what to do on my next model if I go for a Spaceship!) lol

Hey Phoenix492, thanks for the critiques. The booster on the Orion is awesomely cool! It’s not a really a booster in the traditional sense but rather a giant deflection plate, which is attached to huge pistons. The spacecraft propels itself through space by dropping nuclear bombs through a hole in the deflector plate, which go off behind it. The plate compresses the pistons which transfer forward momentum to the rest of craft. Keep the bombs going off behind the plate and you can imagine the craft "put put put"ing its way through space. Pretty neat huh? It was a real concept developed a few decades ago.

Check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

And here’s a rear-view shot:


I hadn’t thought about making the middle section spin, but hey that’s a pretty neat idea! I’ll have to give that a go when I get around to animating it. And you know, it does kind of look like a submarine or a naval ship in a way, so maybe a conning tower or cockpit could extend up from the middle somewhere. Thanks again for the ideas mate. You should work on your ship and post your updates here.

Updated the Orion a little bit. Trying to figure out how to make nice edge creases.


Hey cool, thanks!

Workin’ on the edge creases. Started an antenna / signal dish on the front of the craft. Added a lil’ dude to give a sense of scale.


Looks brilliant so far :slight_smile:

I really like the design of the ship, it has nice kind of futuristic twist on more conventional designs :slight_smile:

Hey Jon thanks for the comment! :slight_smile: I’m going to tweak the ship some more and I’ll post an update.

Reminds me of some of the ships from Babylon 5(:RocknRoll:)-with better details of course :smiley:

Dropping bombs out the back? First gear would really suck!

Nice model, how will you greeble?

@JSM Hey, thanks for the comment! I really hadn’t thought about how the ship resembles Babylon 5, but after taking a look at some pics I can see what you mean. Both are kinda variations on the cylinder shape. The schematic I worked from was actually Rick Sternbach’s interpretation of the Orion, which is in Sagan’s book Cosmos.

@3pointEdit: First gear would suck indeed! Lol. Anyway, I’m not really sure how to begin with greebles and paneling. I’ve never modeled anything this detailed before. :slight_smile: So far I’ve only done some minor insets of areas where I think I want to add stuff, as you can see here. Dan Brown/JDaniels suggested I make some insets and then put some pipes and wiring in there, which is the route I’m headed I think. Just where exactly to put these panels I’m still kinda working out. And also I wanna make it look like the hull is made up of plate segments…dunno if that should be done with textures or extruding faces one at a time. No clue! :slight_smile:

Also I suck at lighting this thing during modelling. I’ve just got a sun lamp with AO turned on. Any suggestions on how to light it better and greeble efficiently and properly?


Maybe for the plate segments you could add moveable thermal shields like in the Icarus in the movie Sunshine. Conceivably those could be used for fine attitude control near a star, and could serve as impact shields in interstellar space.
Are the pusher plate shock absorbers rigged? I’d love to see a launch visualization.
Very cool model.

Paneling over such a large structure would just look like texture variation, I doubt that you would perceive depth at anything other than close up. In space there are no reflectors just a point source, unless you are parked near a planet. For a quick mockup use a hemi lamp, but for decent illumination try a large area lamp at low intensity (Warning low render times). Better yet render in Cycles!

I agree about inset greebles, but hacked together russian stations (Mir) was patchy on the outside. See http://www.isprs.org/data/moms/examples/momsonmi.jpg Warning large file.

Maybe you could make modular greebles that can be placed strategically.

Have you seen this matte work? A familiar ship http://www.jjassodigitalworks.com/MATTES/matte_img003.html

Sadly it is all detail…

Hey guys, thanks for the comments!

@teldredge Hey that’s a good idea and thanks for the props! I haven’t seen Sunshine in a while…from what I remember I didn’t like it too much 'cause I felt like it ripped off Event Horizon, but I do remember the Icarus I and II being really cool looking. I’ll have to get some images (or rent the movie again) and check out the craft. Unfortunately I haven’t got around to rigging the Orion yet, so the shock absorbers don’t animate. I’ll probably get to that after I finish modeling and texturing. However if you want to see what it might look like in action, you should check out Rhysy’s very cool iteration of the Orion here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avsbVBy-shc It’s way better than anything I can do at the moment!

@3pointEdit Hey thanks for the links! I haven’t tried out Cycles yet, but I need to snag a copy from graphicall.org. Wow, you’re right, Mir was very greebly with few insets. Ahh the Venture Star!! You know, I liked Avatar a lot but I was always a bit disappointed that they created one of the most realistic starships ever, but they only showed it for maybe 15 seconds during the movie. Well, I guess there’s nothing to do but stare at these pics and get some greebly inspiration. Thanks again!

Coming along when I get a few minutes of spare time here or there. Slow going though! Here’s the latest render. The cube is 2m (about 6 feet tall) to give scale:


Also, working on some greebles for the pod insets. I went off an old piping schematic. I think the pods are gonna be what store the nuclear bombs that propel the craft. I’m going to rig up some way for them to drop down through the central tube they’re mounted above. Then they’ll travel down the length of the craft, out the bottom, through the pusher plate and explode! Now, how the heck I do all that in Blender, no clue yet! One step at a time I guess.


…and that’s all I got! For now. Crits?

If your craft accelerates constantly, then simulated gravity would be in the direction of travel. Meaning that crew would feel the craft rising all the time. Do you have a flight deck or portal? If it is that flat shape sat the top (guessing) then crew would have to lay down to look forward. Nice greeble BTW, look at oil refinery photos too.

Hi David, and thanks for the comments! Yup, the weird conning tower thingy was going to be a bridge of some sort…but you have a good point, seeing as how they’d all be pinned back in their seats if the craft is accelerating. Hmm. I may need to think about redesigning that portion…

Well, after a bit of consideration I’ve decided to nix the whole conning tower idea and basically all of the geometry on the main hull because, well, 3pointEdit is right. if the pusher plate is propelling the craft, then anyone sitting in the conning tower area would have to lie flat on their backs, and that doesn’t make any sense as that’s not the best way to have the human body operating in space. Gotta use our feet like we do here on Earth!

I’ve decided to make the pods the crew modules instead of the modules that hold the nuclear warheads. I’m going to extend them out and have them rotate on the plate they’re currently attached to, with some sort of tunnel or tube coming out of each one extending into the cylinder they sit above. The pods will extend during cruise mode as the forward propulsion won’t be providing gravity at that point. The tubes leading from each one will allow the crew to access the forward module that has the antenna array. I guess this would be a zero G area, which could house labs, science equipment, etc. Work a while in there, then back to the crew modules for some good ol’ gravity.

The warheads instead will be housed either inside the main hull or maybe in some container-type device that I’ll attach to its exterior. Only problem is I’m left with a boring hull shape now and it’s in desperate need of spicing up. Any ideas? They would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been staring at that boring ass hull trying to figure out what to do with it.


Don’t call them warheads, you aren’t throwing them at anyone :wink:

Indeed! My mistake.