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Inflatable Lifepod
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 3:02 pm    Post subject: Inflatable Lifepod Reply with quote

This isn’t as ridiculous as you’d think.

If a starship’s physical hull and internal structure is primarily a “framework, waveguide and backup” to the various energy fields that make interstellar travel possible, then having a solid, rigid structure is less important in the SWU than it would be for less advanced starships.

I started thinking about the real world concept of a Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat, in particular, the Folding Rigid Inflatable Boat. Now, these craft are far more useful in real-world maritime scenarios, but I see potential for this in niche applications, particularly aboard volume-poor vessels like most light freighters.

Picture this:
    1) When not in use, the pod is stored in collapsed form on the outside of the hull.

    2) To activate it, just pull a handle or lever that releases compressed gas into the inflatable sections.

    3) As the rigid sections expand, they lock into place supported by the shaped air bags.

    4) Once the craft is fully inflated, the airbags are filled with an expanding foam that forces the gas out, then hardens in place. The rigid panels have

    5) The drive section and control station (the only non-inflatable, non-folding components) activate and bring up structural integrity, inertial damping, etc, fields, which are guided by field relays built into the rigid panels.
It wouldn’t be fast or durable or have much in the way of amenities, but it is a viable option for small ships that don’t have much room to spare.

Thoughts?
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Xain Arke
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sort of like a large version of the Bubble Cloak from Fantastic Technology
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MrNexx
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was thinking it's similar to bubblefabs that have been proposed for extraterrestrial colonies... get to Mars and, if you haven't built a permanent shelter yet, fill a tough balloon with atmosphere and live there. Long term, it can have longevity problems, but it should work.

It would be a cheaper option than an escape pod with propulsion, to be sure.
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CRMcNeill
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Location: Redding System, California Sector, on the I-5 Hyperspace Route.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrNexx wrote:
It would be a cheaper option than an escape pod with propulsion, to be sure.

That's the thing, though; it would have propulsion.

This is part of the theory I gleaned from reading Hull 721 (specifically, this). The short version is that a ship's hull is less important to normal space flight in the SWU than the various energy fields (tensors, acceleration compensation, radiation, stasis, etc) that allow ships to perform the amazing feats they do.

As such, the three main functions of the ship's hull are:
    1) Framework - Solid base to which the various field emitters are mounted and fixed in position in order to generate the necessary fields.

    2) Waveguide - Help to shape the generated fields to optimum efficiency and capability.

    3) Backup - In case everything goes wrong, the hull provides a solid, physical backup in the event any of the energy field systems malfunctions or shuts down.
As such, so long as the pod's hull can serve those three functions, it doesn't need to be a fixed frame design in order to be able to thrust and maneuver. Granted, it won't do them particularly well, but it can still do them. A drive is also necessary to provide the power to run the various field generators mentioned above, too.

Of course, there's also room for unpowered variants (air rafts, as one possibility), and the powered versions would be slow and fragile, but they would still have propulsion.
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Whill
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Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:24 am    Post subject: Re: SIF? Reply with quote

CRMcNeill wrote:
I definitely appreciate the original author's grasp of the technological side of things. A few chapters in, there's a scene where the ship's chief engineer gives a lecture to some of his rookie staff about how the physical hull of starships in the SWU are essentially just wave-guides and backups for all the energy fields (tensors, acceleration compensation, radiation, stasis, etc) that allow the ship to actually exist, and that without those energy shields, the ships would literally tear themselves apart trying to do what they are seen to do on screen.

So yeah, the verisimilitude of someone technically-minded applying that knowledge to the SWU is very much appreciated.
CRMcNeill wrote:
This is part of the theory I gleaned from reading Hull 721 (specifically, this). The short version is that a ship's hull is less important to normal space flight in the SWU than the various energy fields (tensors, acceleration compensation, radiation, stasis, etc) that allow ships to perform the amazing feats they do.

As such, the three main functions of the ship's hull are:
    1) Framework - Solid base to which the various field emitters are mounted and fixed in position in order to generate the necessary fields.

    2) Waveguide - Help to shape the generated fields to optimum efficiency and capability.

    3) Backup - In case everything goes wrong, the hull provides a solid, physical backup in the event any of the energy field systems malfunctions or shuts down.
As such, so long as the pod's hull can serve those three functions, it doesn't need to be a fixed frame design in order to be able to thrust and maneuver. Granted, it won't do them particularly well, but it can still do them. A drive is also necessary to provide the power to run the various field generators mentioned above, too.

This is fan fiction, and the author is obviously a fan of Star Trek too. I've watched a couple Trek episodes a week for the last few years and I hear this a lot. The author's technological grasp which you appreciate is a grasp of 24th century Star Trek starship technobabble. Check out this entry in the Star Trek wiki: Structural integrity field. Just today I watched the episode it mentions where Voyager had to go to warp with the SIF offline and they lost some outer hull platings in the process.

In Star Wars, have you seen starship hull structural integrity fields outside of fan fiction? Of course, force fields do exist in Star Wars, most notably in the form of energy shields (as they do in Trek). Force fields also did contain Obi-Wan in Aotc and RotS. But I looked and I couldn't find anything like structural integrity fields in Wookieepedia, legends or canon. The Wookiee entries on starship hulls make no mention of them and I can't recall ever coming across that.

Of course, Star Trek and Star Wars can and do overlap in gobbledegook. And no one is saying fans can't have structural integrity fields in our SWUs like in the fan fic author obviously has in his SWU. For one thing, I just wanted to clarify because someone reading your posts might walk away with the idea that these definitively exist in SW legends and/or canon and the fan fic author is just adept at explaining them. Really he is just inserting them into Star Wars where they didn't already exist.

For another thing, my thoughts are that I personally don't like the idea of SIF for Star Wars. In my mind, SW starship hulls are composed of fictional metals and designed to withstand many pressures. I supposed the miraculous technology of inertial compensation are fields, but I see something like radiation and heat shielding as physically inherent in the hull like it is on Earth spacecraft. If the field generators fail, then the ship is suddenly frail? I don't care for that. The DeepWater has no SIF tech. It's hull is designed to survive space and atmosphere as-is. When it goes underwater, its shield tech pointedly converts to a make-shift structural integrity field so its hull can survive the pressures of the deep. If the shield system fails when the ship is too deep, welcome to the tin can. I designed the MC-13v2 to specifically address the flaw of the ship's hull being too weak to survive deep underwater on its own. It's a physical aspect of the hull.

In Star Trek, everything is force fields. Structural integrity fields, warp bubbles, holograms, etc. I find that I don't mind the extra force fields as much for Star Trek as I do for Star Wars. Maybe the reason I don't like the concept of SIF for Star Wars is because it gives Star Wars too much of a Star Trek verisimilitude for my tastes.

CRMcNeill wrote:
Inflatable Lifepod... Thoughts?

Since I don't like the idea of structural integrity fields in Star Wars, I can see something like the OP as more of a purely short term survival measure for the crew if an escape pod is damaged or otherwise unavailable. It could maintain an atmosphere for a while, but it could not last that long in space and could not support a propulsion system to fly through space outside of some short term directional thrusters maybe. And then it wouldn't support repulsorlift tech and I can't see it surviving atmospheric reentry without burning up, so this would probably only work if the ship was already in a survivable atmosphere when it was deployed and not too high of an altitude. It could easily have parachutes for soft landing.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 3:08 am    Post subject: Re: SIF? Reply with quote

Whill wrote:
Since I don't like the idea of structural integrity fields in Star Wars,

Yes, there is nothing by that name in the SWU. There are, however, magnetic seals and tensor fields which perform the same function. In particular, when the Invisible Hand broke in half over Coruscant, tensor field malfunction was cited as a major cause. Considering the number of other types of energy fields that already exist in the SWU (stasis fields affecting the flow of time; repulsors, inertial compensators, artificial gravity, etc, that create, negate or shape gravity; energy fields that obstruct both solid objects and other energy, etc), I don't see why structural integrity fields are so objectionable.

And I didn't come to this on a whim. The fan fic in question was recommended by several members of the Fractalsponge fandom, who are of a decidedly more technical bent than is the norm here. I certainly don't agree with all of the fan fic's tech choices, but I'm more than willing to incorporate those that make sense and do not conflict.

My quoted version from the fan fic is more of a summary, and is perhaps overly simplistic. The hull is not suddenly fragile, as the various energy fields take time to "wind down" in the event of a failure, and the physical hull and frame on most craft are quite durable, although without the various protective energy fields, their usable life span would be greatly reduced. In effect, rather than an either/or of fictional metals or protective energy fields, it's both at once, working in concert.

Quote:
I can see something like the OP as more of a purely short term survival measure for the crew

W/r/t your above objections, I never said that this thing would be equal in hull strength to other "rigid-frame" starships. Any such system would have nothing like the long-term durability of a normal starship, and would be both slow and fragile.
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Scots Dragon
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Essential Guide to Warfare mentions that the particle shields do part of the same job of reinforcing structural integrity.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scots Dragon wrote:
The Essential Guide to Warfare mentions that the particle shields do part of the same job of reinforcing structural integrity.

I suppose a magnetically sealed outer hull, with tensor-field-reinforced internal framework, would count as particle shielding...
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jeff37923
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the idea, but a few consequences come to mind.

1) The inflatable life pods would be single use. Once the balloon sections are inflated and the structural foam has been injected and hardens, the life pod will not be able to be deflated and used again. Now this is mainly a problem if the characters are cheap and want to reuse their pods - but it also means that there will be a secondary market for used inflatable life pods for those who want extremely cheap (like ugly cheap) minimal spacecraft. Maybe the non-inflatable sections can be detached and re-used?

2) Being single use, this completely changes how planetary invasions are done. Instead of drop pods, supply pods, and vehicle pods which can be refueled to bring the troops and vehicles and stuff back up once the invasion is over - a different way to bring all of that back up will have to be thought out (tractor beam the pods back into space maybe?) or a separate shuttle or drop ship used.

3) Smugglers and Blockade Runners will love these. All they have to do is a close enough flyby of the target to eject one to the recipient and then run like Hell away. Time it with a local meteor shower and you increase your chances of success.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jeff37923 wrote:
1) The inflatable life pods would be single use. Once the balloon sections are inflated and the structural foam has been injected and hardens, the life pod will not be able to be deflated and used again. Now this is mainly a problem if the characters are cheap and want to reuse their pods - but it also means that there will be a secondary market for used inflatable life pods for those who want extremely cheap (like ugly cheap) minimal spacecraft. Maybe the non-inflatable sections can be detached and re-used?

It's a fair point, but it's possible that there's a solvent that can be sprayed on the foam to break it up. Either way, it would be a complicated procedure to pack the thing down and re-prep it for use; everything would have to be pressed down flat and folded back into place, and the hard components would need to be folded in, the drive and control sections recharged, etc. Sort of like repacking a parachute...

Quote:
2) Being single use, this completely changes how planetary invasions are done. Instead of drop pods, supply pods, and vehicle pods which can be refueled to bring the troops and vehicles and stuff back up once the invasion is over - a different way to bring all of that back up will have to be thought out (tractor beam the pods back into space maybe?) or a separate shuttle or drop ship used.

I see this more as a low-end niche market. The extant troop / drop / supply pods would still be in use; they'd be faster and more resistant to damage, but also more expensive. This is more intended for emergencies only, aboard ships that don't have a lot of room available for true escape pods.

Quote:
3) Smugglers and Blockade Runners will love these. All they have to do is a close enough flyby of the target to eject one to the recipient and then run like Hell away. Time it with a local meteor shower and you increase your chances of success.

The only drawback is loading them, which would have to wait until they're activated. An Inflatable Pod isn't going to be preloaded, and is going to be rather awkward stuck out on the side of the ship's hull. There may be some workarounds for that, but nothing springes immediately to mind.
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