View Full Version : Khardessa Orbital Lift Station

Greason Wolfe
02-27-2009, 12:17 PM
In needing a break from the Haevenstadt Harbor Project, I decided to spend a bit of time working on another story setting, and though it is geared towards Science Fiction, it is still a town/city, so I figured I would post it here instead of in the Sci-Fi Forum. It's a story I've been working on in bits and pieces for a while now, and one of the problems I had been facing was the actual setting in which most of the scenes take place. I also thought it might be a good situation to experiment with adding in buildings through Terragen since they are likely to be enclosed structures with a grid-work of "tubes" connecting them. There would still be some open area, but it would be used mostly for the development of vegetation and, perhaps, a market place, of sorts, for the "less privledged."

From the onset, I knew that the planet was very Mars-like in many ways as well as being marginally habitable. I knew, as well, that it was part of a relatively small star system. With that in mind, I used EP Eridani as a basic stellar model and extrapolated the following information based on the "known" information as listed in the Internet Stellar Database (ISDB);

Stellar Statistics

Spectral Class : K2V
Stellar Mass : 0.747 Sol
Stellar Radius : 0.915 Sol (635925 Km)
Stellar Luminosity : 0.360 Sol
Abundance of Heavy Elements : 98% (*/- 20%)
Surface Temperature : 4543 Kelvin
Habitable Zone : 0.6 AU

Then I hopped over to WinstarGen (a handy little utility for generating planets around stars that gives more detailed results than AstroSynthesis) and started cycling through planetary systems until I found something marginally useful.

Planetary Statistics

Radius : 4248 Km
Mass : 0.29 Earths
Density : 0.98 Earths
Gravity : 0.65g
Atmospheric Pressure : 0.336 Atm
Albedo : 0.66
Orbital Distance : 94816418 Km
Base Surface Temperature : 263K (-10C / 14F)
Greenhouse Gas Adjustment :
Final Surface Temperature : 275K (2C / 36F)
Local Day : 72 hours
Length of Year : 184 Standard Days (61 local days)

In the two hundred years since it has been colonized, greenhouse gasses have been slowly introduced into the atmosphere, bringing down the overall albedo to its current level as well as thickening the atmosphere to a more tolerable level. It is still somewhat thin, however, and survival without aid is dependent upon keeping physical activity levels to a minimum.

An important note here; The surface temperatures listed are those as measured at the equator. Moving north or south towards the poles results, obviously, in a temperature reduction that can become rather extreme (as low as -142F). As a consequence, most of the surface is covered in ice. Near the equator, however, there is a narrow band of water and some usable land. Were it not for the abundance of medium weight ores, the planet would likely have been ignored for something better around another star. As it is, this "fringe" world is little more than an "out-lying village" in terms of the expansion of humanity.

The colonists have, within the last few decades, started to introduce vegetation as a means of increasing the oxygen content of the atmosphere. It is a long range goal at this point as is maintaining the delicate balance of atmospheric pressure to albedo. Any major shift in one or the other would result in a global ice age that would likely render the planet completely inhospitable.

As of this writing, I've started with a basic landmass located near the equator. It is the site of the Orbital Lift Station (quite similar in theory to a Space Elevator) which is located atop the plateau that can be seen near the middle of the image below. Off to the left, there is another low rise that will likely become the "Flight Control Center" for shipments coming from other locations around the planet's surface, most of which will also "land" on the main plateau. I've a bit of work to do with the "coastal" portions, but given the fact that this landmass covers an area of roughly 16 square kilometers, detailing the coastline is going to be a low priority thing. In this first render, my primary goal has been to get the coloring worked out as far as the land and water surfaces go as well as the atmospheric effects. I've included a bit of the vegetation, but this is mostly to get an idea how it is going to look under a dimmer sun and through an atmosphere that isn't as blue as our own. When time permits, I will pull up a couple more, less intensive renders, to give a better idea of how the "island" looks from different points of view.

Comments? Suggestions?


And now it's off to look at this month's Challenge Entries . . . Wooohoooo!

Steel General
02-27-2009, 01:08 PM
I like the color scheme... looking forward to seeing more.

02-27-2009, 07:39 PM
What software did you use to generate that, Terragen?

[EDIT] Duh, you said it right there in the first paragraph... The newer versions are able to render structures of some kind?

Greason Wolfe
02-27-2009, 08:08 PM
What software did you use to generate that, Terragen?

[EDIT] Duh, you said it right there in the first paragraph... The newer versions are able to render structures of some kind?

I'm not sure about TG2Technology. I use 0.9.43 and will have to manually build up the structures which, at this point, is proving difficult as the Combine feature is not working they way it suggests. But the experimentation is not over yet.


Greason Wolfe
03-02-2009, 01:17 PM

Did a little color tweaking over the weekend as well as a little "coast-line" work to smooth things out a bit and give the land more of a "excavated" appearance. The first image below shows the result of that work. One of the early problems was separating land from atmosphere as far as coloring goes, and I managed to accomplish this by shifting to a strata effect for land coloring while adjusting the sun's color to match something typical for a spectral class K star.

From there, I moved on to the process of adding structures. This is, at least in Terragen, a painstaking process that eats up a lot of time as each building has to be added in on an individual basis and built as a separate elevation file, keeping in mind the height constraints set by the primary elevation file. In addition to this, there is a fair amount of editing to do with the base elevation file to smooth out the foundations for each building. My thought is to lay out the buildings first (along with a coloring mask) and, once I'm satisfied with them, start laying out the vegetation masks for the cultivated areas. As a means of giving the impression that the area around the Lift Station is evolving, I'm also going to include a random distribution of vegetation using TG's internal Fractal Noise, Coverage, Altitude and Slope features.

From there, it will be on to the roads and/or Transportation Tubes/Bridges. I don't see much of a problem with these with the exception of the Transportation Tubes/Bridges where they might cross over water, or where they might be above ground level. TG (at least version 0.9.43) doesn't have the ability to render such things in a single shot, so it might call for a double render and some post render editing in PSP or Gimp.

One of the things I have been debating as a little "spice" to the end result is the possibility of adding a little stellar debris to the sky in the sense that with a thinner atmosphere, it might be possible to see some stars in the sky even during the day. I'm not 100 percent set on this idea yet and will have to wait and see how the rest of the rendering process turns out before I finalize that idea. If I do go for it though, I'll likely follow the suggestions in one of Joe's tutorials about using FTPro to generate star fields.

As an added bonus, the second image below gives a very basic idea of what the structures are going to look like once I've nailed them down as far as elevation goes. The current sample displays somewhat exaggerated building heights, but they will be tweaked into proportion once I've gotten more proficient with the process of adding them in. At some point, as well, I'll try to decide on an architectual style for the buildings to give them more of a cultural feel.


03-02-2009, 01:37 PM
I forget the process, but you used to be able to import your own elevation files for terrain. Can you still do stuff like that for other structures?

As soon as I put these new hard drives in this machine I'm going to download the new version and start playing with it again.

Greason Wolfe
03-02-2009, 01:42 PM
As I said earlier, I'm not sure about TG2 Technology, but in version 0.9.43 you can still import grey-scale images as elevation files via For Export Only (FEO) and Firmament. You can bring structures in as well, but, as far as I've been able to work with TG, it must be done through Firmament and using the Combine feature in TG. Alternatively, you can add in structures via post-render editing, but scaling things via that method can be a real headache.

::edit:: There are a few other software packages out there that can help, like Leveller, POV-Ray and Blender. As I understand it, they might also be useful for adding in vegetation with more of a 3d aspect, but I haven't even gotten close to purchasing or experimenting with such packages as of yet.


Greason Wolfe
03-05-2009, 08:12 PM

I know it's been a few days, but I was busy constructing the first version of the Orbital Lift Station. The basic concept behind the station has been borrowed, in part, from a story called Mars Bound that appeared in either the Analog or the Asimov's Science Fiction magazines and was later turned into a book. For the life of me, I can't remember the author's name and can't find the magazine that the story (at least the first part of the story) appeared in. When I do find that information, however, I will post it here to give credit where credit is due. In any event, the basic concept;

A series of four cables (represented by black), each approximately 4 meters thick, are anchored roughly 100 meters deep into the ground and connect the planet-side station to an orbital launch platform just beyond the planet's gravity well. These cables were constructed using nano-technology and have literally billions of nanobots "living" within them to effect repairs, transmit communications and serve as power conduits. The Crawler Arms (represented by red) are capable of climbing the cables at a slow and steady pace until they, and the Lift Platform (represented by blue) reach an altitude where centrifugal force begins to assist the process. Stanchions (represented by green) at both the planetary station and the orbital launch platform are used to help keep the cables stable and the planetary station itself (represented by yellow) serves as the operations base to prepare loads for lift and receive incoming shipments.

I know that is a pretty lame explanation at this point, and I promise, I will come up with something more detailed when time permits. I just wanted to give everyone a basic idea of what was going on from the "technical" side of things. As for the map itself, and the rendering process, here are a couple views of the Orbital Lift Station (OLS) as it stands right now. It looks like I am going to have to do a little more work with the distribution masks in order to tame some of the color "overspray" and it is likely that I will have to cut the cables out all together and add them in via post render editing. In any event, at least it is some progress, and yes, the coloring will change at some point as well. For the most part, I am just working up all the basics at this point and will fine tune things once I've got all the buildings laid out where I want them. And speaking of buildings, I'm looking for a few opinions here. There will be some individual residences for persons of particular importance and though tourism isn't a big industry for Khardessa, there will be at least one or two particularly fancy "hotels." As far as the general populace, however, I'm trying to decide if it would be better for them to live in "condos" of some sort or if they should have individual homes. Any thoughts or suggestions on this particular aspect are more than welcome.


P.S. If anyone has suggestions for how I might make the OLS look a little more unique, I'm open to hearing them. This first version is pretty basic in my opinion and I'm thinking I might like to make it a little more snazzy looking while maintaining functionality of the operational concept behind it.

03-24-2009, 02:39 PM

In my mind, if this planet is still developing its atmosphere and vegetation since inception 200 years ago, most likely the majority of people would live in a dense urban environment. The initial colonization point would act as a central hub, almost like a town hall community meeting area, with large pre-fabricated condominium units setup initially for the purpose of purely housing the new colonists, with sealed tubular bridges connecting them. I would envision the layout like a ring of high-density residential towers encircling the energy generation, water collection/purification, and air filtration/conversion facilities. This makes sense as an efficient way to initially meet residents needs.

As development occurred, the city would have expanded outwards from these initial monoliths, and more cultural aspects would begin to evolve as people became "natives". These building would also be high density residential, but would include a slight artistic bent. Further facilities would be required to provide clear air, water, food, and energy. Perhaps these would grow as rings surrounding the central core.

Finally, you may have some more lower density residential areas on the outskirts, or located in various parts of the planet that are currently more habitable as the environment becomes more human friendly.

Hope it provides some insight!