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How to build a SHIP -- chapter 5: propulsion
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How to build a SHIP -- chapter 5: propulsion

Unless you are building a ship that uses the same phasing through space/time as Dr. Who's police box, Or you have gone Roswell with your design and your ship wooshes for no apparent reason, then you are most likely going to need some form of propulsion on your ship.

Even in the most popular sci-fi shows of all time, we have rather primitive and straightforward ship propulsion:
Star Trek: Ion (impulse) engines for sub-light speeds, and space/time warping for ftl.
Star Wars: Ion engines for sub-light, and hyperdrive for ftl.
Battle Star: fuel burning engines for sub-light, some sort of "jump" for crossing vast distances
Babylon 5: fuel burning ion engines, with gateway access to hyperspace, but still with ions
All five Outer Limits (newer version) episodes set in space: plain old ion engines
Wing Commander: fuel burning ion engines

And the list goes on. But the point is, we got the same basic idea that we see today with the space shuttle and with numerous NASA probes --> you burn fuel, it comes out as exhaust, and that return force pushes your ship through space. Essentially, a combustable car engine.

So the big thing with your ship's propulsion is, what is it? and, how are you going to make us believe in your propulsion? It does not matter what type of propulsion you choose, just represent it so that we believe it.

Here lies the heart of the controversy with tires-for-engines. Lego in its early days, and fan builders, used tire engines galore to represent ion engines. And why not? Many tire pieces put on their side look just like the adjustable thrust nozzles of a jet engine, or a spaceship. Unfortunately, the flood of tires-for-engines lacked imagination, and it began to look like the spare tire on the back of an Isuzu Trooper. Here is where the backlash began, and the building community began to show distaste for tires-for-engines. Some builders have shown immense greebling skill in resurrecting tires-for-engines, but overall the majority of the fan building community has moved away from this. And, even now, Lego is also starting to move away from tires-for-engines. The upcoming Venator star destroyer uses wheel wells, or the center piece of large technic tires for engines, but the new space police line does not have a single tire. The defunct Mars line used tires-for-engines (but they were orange). So you can see a recent evolving with Lego to keep up with the fan building community.

However, there are times in which it is absolutely necessary to use tires-for-engines. I dare you to take a look at the F-302 from Stargate, and not see how some black tire pieces would just be splendid engines for that fighter. Also, goto classic-space, and search under the moc announcements for the Phobos 3. Here is a beautiful, rounded non-blocky, and very recent MOC, and what does it have for engines? Yep, tires right off of the Clone Wars Juggernaut. But it works! the guy who built it (john1138) pulled it off, he made it work. There is no reason to not use tires-for-engines, just be creative. Search Brickshelf, keyword: Beagle, user: pghanson. You can easily see the tire pieces, but he did a lot more to those engines than just throw some tires on (except for the maneuvering engines on the bridge section).

There are now many types of techniques to build engines. One method used by Daniel Jassim, which he at one points states his dissatisfaction with, is to just use orange or red bricks (solid color), like he did with the Regent. He would later evolve this to use only trans colored bricks set on top of white. The white really makes the trans colored pieces stand out. I have not seen too much of this used elsewhere. I know some are using it, just have not seen much of it. There is also the method of using engine-like pieces to build engines. For that, just check out any set from the new space police line, or from the very first classic space line, or just about anything from the Eastern Block. I think the Eastern Block even has a moritorium on using tires-for-engines (except for Leonard Hoffman's Kalashnikov Project, but we will forgive him that).

The most versatile spaceship engine builder of anyone on the internet, I would say, lies with Brickshelf user nnenn. Each week he posts a new starfighter, with a new type of engine and three sentenced backstory with a humorous twist. After looking at just a few of his fighters, you can easily recognize his style. Although there are now others who are learning to build in that same style: using little slope pieces, lots of SNOT work, and crazy engines with vectoring plates and tiny cockpits. Anyway, he has mad skills with building simple, and easy starfighters that come out looking great. Check his engines!

So, figure out what your propulsion is going to be. Does your ship have one type of propulsion, or two for sub-light and faster-than-light? Even Star Trek burns fuel for sub-light. Or, does your little universe use two methods? (Chronicles of Riddick: the dark invaders use gravitic drives, everyone else uses ion engines.)

Or, is your little police box just going to phase through space/time. Maybe you can just do the SPAAB approach, and never mention how everyone goes from star system to star system. Whatever you do for propulsion, think it through with the parts that you are going to use, and make us believe in it. This is actually really hard to do, but the engines are one of the biggest aspects of a spaceship, and how well you do with that will really affect the overall outcome of your ship. There are more ways to be inventive than you can imagine. On Flikr, we see engines using skis for minifigs, minfig hands, the ever popular pink blocks of Spam for spamdrive, and even flowers for flower power propulsion. Somehow they made us believe in flower power and spamcake drive. Can you make us believe in magnetic/gravitic oars to propel your spacebound viking ship? Why not, Disney had us believing in the Etherium winds for Treasure Planet...
Permalink
| May 31, 2009, 2:05 am
Don't forget the classic X-Wing jets. A row of those with some trans pieces is another fairly easy way to make engines that still looks alright, even on big ships, although they are intended for fighters and shuttles and stuff
Permalink
| July 2, 2009, 1:46 pm
Don't forget the classic X-Wing jets. A row of those with some trans pieces is another fairly easy way to make engines that still looks alright, even on big ships, although they are intended for fighters and shuttles and stuff
Permalink
| July 2, 2009, 1:49 pm
Don't forget the classic X-Wing jets. A row of those with some trans pieces is another fairly easy way to make engines that still looks alright, even on big ships, although they are intended for fighters and shuttles and stuff
Permalink
| July 2, 2009, 1:49 pm
Quoting Mason Lindblad
Don't forget the classic X-Wing jets. A row of those with some trans pieces is another fairly easy way to make engines that still looks alright, even on big ships, although they are intended for fighters and shuttles and stuff

Yes, those pieces make for some awesome engine pieces. And depending on how you use them and integrate them, they can work for larger ships, or for maneuvering thrusters for really large ships.
Permalink
| July 3, 2009, 1:22 pm
Quoting Mason Lindblad
Don't forget the classic X-Wing jets. A row of those with some trans pieces is another fairly easy way to make engines that still looks alright, even on big ships, although they are intended for fighters and shuttles and stuff

Yes, those pieces make for some awesome engine pieces. And depending on how you use them and integrate them, they can work for larger ships, or for maneuvering thrusters for really large ships.
Permalink
| July 3, 2009, 1:22 pm
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lemon_boy/3430014581/

Here I use tires as well as the X-wing engine pieces. Unfortunately I was dissatisfied with the rest of the MOC.
Permalink
| July 4, 2009, 1:19 pm
Quoting The one they call Erik
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lemon_boy/3430014581/

Here I use tires as well as the X-wing engine pieces. Unfortunately I was dissatisfied with the rest of the MOC.

Very interesting integration of not one type, but two types of tires with the x-wing engine pieces. I hope you spread this around because that MOC reinforces something I have said numerous times: that there is still innovation yet in using tire pieces as engines. And that MOC's engines are very innovative.

Permalink
| July 4, 2009, 7:02 pm
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