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Vader
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NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Thu 28 Nov 2019, 13:28

This is going to be a bit of a story, I’m afraid ... please bear with me. Or, just skip to the deck plans, below!
 
Here’s the thing: when you start to analyse it in any detail, you'll very soon realise that the Nostromo, as a design effort, is a mess. A huge mess. And there is a good reason why this is so.
 
Once upon a time, she wasn’t called the Nostromo. She wasn’t even an interstellar tug. In the early drafts, the ship was called the “Earthship ‘Snark’”. It then became the “deep space commercial vessel ‘Snark’”. I bit later it became the “modified Lockheed CM88B Bison transporter ‘Leviathan’”, and eventually, as we all know, the “commercial towing vehicle ‘the Nostromo’”.
 
It bears noting that the Nostromo is not, repeat, NOT a “Lockmart Bison” (“Lockmart” is abbreviated from Lockheed Martin) as the game stipulates – the Bison model refers to one of the (many) abandoned earlier concepts; this one by Ron Cobb.
 
Further, the deck plans that Fria Ligan give us for the class in Chariot of the Gods – while absolutely correct, from a certain point of view – are also, I’m afraid, utter nonsense. I’ll go into a bit of detail why.
 
Much of the problem with trying to make sense of the Nostromo today stems partly from the fact that very little was ever actually detailed about the final Nostromo, and partly from fandom.

Fandom has taken in all information available on the ship in ALIEN – including early production concepts, soundstage drawings, deleted scenes in early drafts of the screenplay, etc – and, due to the dearth of official data to the contrary, decided that all of it must be canonical. ALL of it.
Most particularly though –  snippets of information from Cobb’s Leviathan drawings, as this was the most detailed of all the early ship concepts.
Thus, since Cobb’s Leviathan was a “Bison”, the fandom has decided that the Nostromo must be one, too. Since the Leviathan was a cargo ship, the Nostromo must also have cargo holds and provisions for handling freight. Since the Leviathan was a “modified transporter” (implying perhaps an earlier military use), the Nostromo must have a military background, as well. Since the Leviathan has an observation dome called for in early versions of the script, the Nostromo must have one, too. Since side notes in Cobb’s sketches state the Leviathan had been retrofitted with “thrust tunnels” for increased vertical lift, the Nostromo must also have “thrust tunnels” … somewhere … and so on, and so forth.
By the time the production actually comes around to designing the Nostromo, all of this detail has been dropped. Cobb draws up a bunch of concept sketches for the towing vehicle, and the model shop builds something … not entirely dissimilar. There’s a lot more to it, including some executive … involvement … by Sir Ridley, but … essentially.
 
The next unfortunate thing fandom has given us is adding details that seem to “make sense”, even though they aren’t seen in the film … but reasonably would have been, had the ship had them. Such as elevators. How else do you get Kane in full space suit to the sick bay? Never mind we never see anyone use one; just those pesky ladders…
Or a second shuttle. If there’s one under one “wing”, there must be one under the other, right? So how come we ever only see the Narcissus, and it’s a problem to evacuate because “the shuttle won’t take four”? Um … the other one is broken…?
 
The other persistent nemesis in trying to make some real sense of the Nostromo is the shooting sets. On several different levels. But most particularly, the soundstage drawings for the “A-Deck” configuration of the main set.
It must be understood that a set is not a model of a “real” place (albeit imaginary). It can be, but mostly it just isn’t. What it actually is, is just a convenient arrangement of suitable spaces to shoot scenes, as required by the script. So, the same stretch of corridor can be re-used as several different locations, the same door can lead to many different rooms. Re-dress it, and the bridge can become the shuttle, the infirmary can become the engineering control room, the corridors run on an entirely different deck…
 
Unfortunately for us, the set drawings also look a lot like a “real” deck plan…
 
And unfortunately, that “A-Deck” set drawing is, indeed, the “deck plan” we get in Chariot of the Gods.
 
But if you set scenes from the movie against that drawing, you’ll soon realise that it doesn’t add up. For one thing – it’s just that one deck. Dozens of compartments seen in the movie just aren’t there. And if you try to follow how characters move through scenes in the movie, the set plans won’t allow you to draw straight lines. For instance, in the extended version of the movie, we see Ripley, just seen on the bridge, descend a ladder to arrive at the infirmary. But on the soundstage, in that version of the sets, the bridge and the infirmary are built on the same floor.
This has made some fans rationalise that Ripley took a detour (probably to the observation dome…) on the way, just so that they don’t need to break that set drawing apart!
 
You’ll find that same set drawing used as the base for the Nostromo’s interior in the “Ripley” expansion scenarios for ALIEN Isolation, but while the game does provide more decks, unfortunately, those other decks are mostly random jumbles of corridors and compartments, with only incidental relation to what we see in the film.
 
A much better effort can be found in Graham Langridge’s recently published “ALIEN The Blueprints” … an invaluable source book for all ALIEN RPG GM’s, I’d say.
Graham still gets a lot of things wrong though, in my mind. He still takes the set drawing as canonical (he is a firm adherent of the “detour” school), with the addition of a locker room in a corner the camera never looks in the movie. He adds crew elevators and cargo holds – even cargo lifts! – and a second shuttle; he makes the tubular funnel sticking out at the front into a, in my mind nonsensical, docking tube … he fudges a lot more of the geometry than necessary.
But most importantly: you can’t follow the single one truly canonical source for the Nostromo’s layout – being the movie! – through his version. Left turns become right, intersections are missing, vast spaces become merely large, characters must follow strange routes to move between scenes … the acid burning through the decks in the movie would move through entirely different spaces, and end up nowhere at all.
 
So all of this being said – can I do any better?
 
Well … I honestly don’t know. I certainly can’t do a more beautiful work than Graham!
 
But I can at least try to do something I myself feel is more faithful to the movie.
 
And so … here’s my contribution.
 
My core position, as it were, in doing this has been that there are two canonical sources: one, the movie itself, and two, Sir Ridley’s description of his vision for the milieu as “truckers in space”. Everything else has needed to follow from this.
 
And so, the very first irrefutable, canonical fact we learn about the setting Alien takes place in – at least, right after “hey, we’re in space” and “oh look, there’s a ship” – is the caption that states “commercial towing vehicle ‘the Nostromo’”.
 
So the Nostromo, then, is a deep space towing ship; likely very much like our current real-world deep-sea ocean tugs. However, it has never seemed likely to me that she should be able to actually, physically tow the payload – big as she is, next to the refinery, she’s still but a mosquito.
 
What this suggests to me is that the Nostromo must be a hyperspace tug – the unit to contain the hyperspace generator; vastly oversized to be able to envelop something as huge as the towed payload in its bubble. Ergo, all thrusters and antigrav systems to shift the payload in realspace are on board the payload; the Nostromo’s contribution as a towing vehicle is one huge hyperspace generator.
 
So, to my mind, all the Nostromo is must basically be just a ridiculously oversize hyperdrive along with the necessary systems and subsystems to power it, support it, and to move it around in realspace – with only a bare minimum of accommodation for anything else, such as the crew – all crammed into the smallest shell practical.
 
And this starts defining the geometric constraints for us: the by far largest feature of the ship, occupying by far the largest volume of the ship’s hull, must by definition be the hyper generator, because that is the one feature, the single function, that the entire ship is built around.
 
And fortunately, we are given these in the movie: we see the vast cathedral-like engineering space that the control room overlooks – clearly this, then, must be the hyper generator. And the exterior of the Nostromo’s hull has a very distinctly bulging midsection that even extends upwards towards the docking socket and sideways towards the nacelles – clearly this, then, must be the hyper generator’s housing.
 
Everything else sort of … follows.
 
 
What you see here is still a bit of a work in progress, but I’d say it’s about 90-95% done. Sufficient to be useful, I think:

(Story continues below, for those interested.)

Image
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My ambition here has been to not do what Sir Arthur Evans did with Knossos, but rather try to accomplish something akin to what Barbara Strachey once did for the Lord of the Rings fandom in “Journeys of Frodo”: draw a map that allows you to draw a red line, scene by scene, tracking every shot and pan, the movement of every character throughout the entire story, hopefully without in the end having left anything unaccounted for.
 
Around this map, I also wanted to build a plausible hyperspace tug. This has meant adding stuff never seen or even hinted at, but that is necessary to make the ship work, and to connect different parts of the ship – for instance, how do you get from the Engineering control room to the galley? Where is the power plant? Where do Brett and Parker go to build the cattle prods and "flame units"? ...  What other subsystems are there, and where are they located?
 
One pesky thing has been the floodlights seen suspended underneath the aft portion of the ship during the landing sequence. Obviously, there is no place to stow them where they hang … but still, they’re there … so how to solve that?
I have postulated that the lights fold down and are stowed in garages under the main hull, and deploy on rails (too thin to be seen at the distances we get to view the ship). This would also account for why the positions the lights are suspended at are slightly asymmetrical:

Image
 
In struggling to figure this ship out, I’ve also needed to make some postulations about how the technology in this future world needs to work in order to be consistent with the movie.
For instance, the power plants need to be fusion reactors; this is the most consistent with what we see at the end of the movie.
Moreover, the thrusters must be some kind of a non-Newtonian reactionless thruster technology (in clear violation of known physics, but a staple in SciFi, so I’ll let it slide). There is nowhere to store the reaction mass we needed to just  land and take off, let alone move around in space. And besides, hey, we obviously have artificial gravity, so that’s no huge leap…
 
A bit more complex is this: since I place the “L3” airlock that is used for Kane’s burial on the side of the main hull, I somehow have to account for the body shooting out of the hull on a lateral vector, but in the next shot passing underneath the Narcissus on a longitudinal vector. Physically … not easy to explain.
Now, going for something crude like saying that the body, off-screen, ricochets like a flipper ball between the nacelle and the main hull before the next shot when we see it again, now on its final vector, would be unsatisfactory.
 
Instead, I have postulated something about how the Alien universe’s hyperspace technology might work, practically – here's how it goes:
 
Imagine that the hyperdrive generator, in bringing the ship to hyperspace, first needs to accelerate it to a c-fractional velocity. This would take some days of constant acceleration at several dozen m/s², before the hyperrelativistic bubble can form.
The inertial compensators of the ship's artificial gravity masks this immense acceleration for everything inside the hull, but as soon as an object leaves the artificial gravity field, it will continue to coast on inertia at the speed the ship (and therefore the object) had at the moment of separation, while the ship itself continues to accelerate away from the object, seemingly leaving it behind — or, from the ship's relative frame of reference, making the object seem to shoot away in a sternward direction.
 
Therefore, Kane's body does indeed leave the ship on a lateral vector, but in the same instant, the ship's continuous acceleration "leaves" it there. The body does continue to move on the vector away from the airlock, but that motion is rapidly dwarfed by the hyperdrive acceleration of the ship, which makes the body instead seem to fly off on a sternward trajectory.
 
Fortunately though, this explanation also accounts for another conundrum: why Ripley, when escaping the Nostromo, uses the Narcissus’s tiny bow thrusters to back away from the ship the long way (having to also clear the enormous payload) instead of using the quad of much bigger main thrusters to shoot away forwards – and why these insignificant thrusters seem to impart such enormous velocity in no time at all. But if the bow thrusters actually only break the contact between the Narcissus and the Nostromo’s inertial compensation field, it would in fact be the hyperdrive acceleration pushing the Nostromo away from the Narcissus at a fantastic rate, instead of the other way around – which makes heading aft, even with weaker thrusters, the absolutely fastest way for Narcissus to escape the ship.
 

Anyway – enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
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- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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Diego
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 01:24

You know what buddy, I am going to be brutally honest. The moment I opened up this thread I was like 'what the f**k is this guy on about', it was like the worst kind of fanboy nitpicking.

Then I saw your deck plans and I was like... by the power of greyskull! Those deck plans are amazing! So much life in them, so much detail, so big and imposing like what one of these Goliath like ships should be.

Consider them stolen my friend, I say stolen!

And good job! Don't fine job! Going to add masterful in fact.
Last edited by Diego on Fri 29 Nov 2019, 01:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Diego
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 01:30

ps

Your plans also include something that I felt was overlooked in the design section of the game book. Which is apparently crew quarters don't take up any room at all, other than if you want to include something quite 'stately' for a traveling executive. I do feel that crew quarters should have been included with either the option of having ships that dedicate more room for comfort, or remain utilitarian and instead increase room size to allow great capacity. After all, in this space going future, there are going to be star liners and moving large numbers of people is going to be big business (just look at the flight industry now on Earth)/
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aramis
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 05:32

My general reaction: Nicely drawn, but too much machinery, not enough fluids stores (especially reaction mass) and cargo space.

I disagree on the need for reactionless drives; we'd not see much from an operating thruster unless nearly in the exhaust plume or looking at or into the nozzle. The diffuse glow isn't primarily in our visual range.

Also, the proportions are a bit... wonky? 9 decks seems just a touch too thick for each deck... The overall is 72m thick, and you're jusing just about half that, and thus giving about 4-4.5 m per deck, while the film looks more like mixed 2.5 to 3m per deck. 

One of the trivia bits on the wiki is the 200,000,000 tons capacity... which we can assume is tug space, but it's a house of magnitude larger than the cargo load limits in the game.

Bottom line: too many places to run/hide.
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Vader
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 11:03

My general reaction: Nicely drawn, but too much machinery, not enough fluids stores (especially reaction mass) and cargo space.

I disagree on the need for reactionless drives; we'd not see much from an operating thruster unless nearly in the exhaust plume or looking at or into the nozzle. The diffuse glow isn't primarily in our visual range.

Also, the proportions are a bit... wonky? 9 decks seems just a touch too thick for each deck... The overall is 72m thick, and you're jusing just about half that, and thus giving about 4-4.5 m per deck, while the film looks more like mixed 2.5 to 3m per deck. 

One of the trivia bits on the wiki is the 200,000,000 tons capacity... which we can assume is tug space, but it's a house of magnitude larger than the cargo load limits in the game.

Bottom line: too many places to run/hide.
...and this is where discussions like these get interesting! :)

The reactionless drives I'm afraid are inescapable. Newtonian thrusters are slaves to what's known as the "rocket equation". Clearly the planetoid has a gravity that is a significant portion of Earth's (otherwise people would be bounding instead of walking). To achieve escape velocity from a 1G gravity well, even the most efficient Newtonian drive we can conjecture (far from build, though) would still require something like 80-90% of the ship's total mass at take-off be fuel (i.e. reaction mass). But by then, we'd already seen the Nostromo both de-orbit and land, both manoeuvres requiring considerable amounts of fuel - meaning that when landed, the remaining fuel at that point would need to be more than 4/5th's of the ship's mass ... It just impossible to get the numbers to mesh up.
So, in "my" version of the Nostromo, I've chosen to postulate reactionless drives. Which is exactly as unrealistic as artificial gravity anyway, so...

And thereby the question of reaction mass in the internal storage spaces becomes moot - no reaction drives, no reaction mass. All the fuel carried will be hydrogen for the two fusion reactors.

And what visual cues with emitted light etc. such drives might have ... well, who knows? Apparently, they emit white light at some point, anyway.


In working on the ship, I've come to realise that the Nostromo can't be designed like a terrestrial vessel - a hull enclosing a big, empty space that is separated into individual spaces by decks and bulkheads. Rather, she must be a hull enclosing an agglomerate of massive machinery, infiltrated with a warren of corridors and compartments. Hence also there being a lot of "dead" space - with conduits, ducts, and more machinery - between each deck.

And too many places to run/hide ... yes indeed. That is exactly the problem the crew came to face.


But one of the things I am hoping to accomplish with this exercise is to show that with Nostromo being such a mess ... it literally being impossible to consolidate all of what we see in a single, cohesive picture; there will perforce be interpretations, preferences, choices in making sense of it ... all of us will ultimately make up our own Nostromos.

This is mine. If you like it, you are free to use it. If you don't, you are equally free to make up your own.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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Vader
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 11:06

... it was like the worst kind of fanboy nitpicking.
Guilty as charged, mate ... I mean, what'd I even be doing here, otherwise? ;)

Glad you liked it, in the end - thanks!
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
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- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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aramis
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 11:41

I am well aware of the rocket equation, and have even made use of it in games; ships need under a G-hour to break orbit, and with ample fusion energy, you only need reaction mass once you cross about 50km, and even then, the right designs can grab another 20-30 km.done right, the transition to orbit can use a few dozen G-minutes, and drives using extremely high ISP charged particle thrust  can be fuel-users... but without actually needing the huge volumes.

I'd suggest a perusal of Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets page (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/ )

Also note: The rulebook also specifies reaction drives...
Pages referencing reaction drives:  174, 348
Also note: Gravity drives are new as of "current" for the RPG(AD 2180). (P. 152), and the Nostromo isn't. (It's toasted in 2121, per the timeline, p15)
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Vader
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 12:55

I am well aware of the rocket equation, and have even made use of it in games; ships need under a G-hour to break orbit, and with ample fusion energy, you only need reaction mass once you cross about 50km, and even then, the right designs can grab another 20-30 km.done right, the transition to orbit can use a few dozen G-minutes, and drives using extremely high ISP charged particle thrust  can be fuel-users... but without actually needing the huge volumes.

I'd suggest a perusal of Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets page (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/ )

Also note: The rulebook also specifies reaction drives...
Pages referencing reaction drives:  174, 348
Also note: Gravity drives are new as of "current" for the RPG(AD 2180). (P. 152), and the Nostromo isn't. (It's toasted in 2121, per the timeline, p15)
.
I looked, and I'm not sure where he's getting those exhaust velocities ... the scale in one nomogram goes up to 1/3rd of light speed for the most fantastic drive (antimatter beam, whatever that is). That's some rocket! He also postulates that a hydrogen-helium fusion drive should be able to generate exhaust velocities of 10% of light speed ... not too shoddy, either!
His nomograms further show that in order for a 200kton mass ship (which is what I'd imagine the Nostromo to be, more or less) to achieve Earth lift-off, it would require a rocket two orders of magnitude more powerful than the 1/3 light speed antimatter beam ... I generally prefer to do the math myself, but this is quite interesting, too...

I'm led to conclude that ... nah, I'll just stick with antigravity and reactionless drives in my game (antigrav to counter weight during landing/lift-off manoeuvres; use drive to break unity).
That way I can also fiddle around with heat rejection and all that jazz ... the heat sinks required to dissipate the heat from those mega-impulse reaction drives would probably need to be the size of the Nostromo itself!

And as I've mentioned before - the Nostromo obviously has artificial gravity already, which also is technology that creates "action without equal and opposite reaction". The drive and gravity might even be branches of the same technology ... certainly ought to stem from the same discovery.


And BTW, as you'll note, this isn't about the rule book's "official" version of the Nostromo. According to the rule book, she is a "Lockmart Bison", which I dismiss; she has a deck plan that I also dismiss utterly, and so forth.

What I'm all about here is instead offering the community a more "screen accurate" alternative to what's in the game. Up to everyone what they - you - want to do with it.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
 
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aramis
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 22:16

It doesn't feel screen accurate - too many long straight halls.
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Vader
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Re: NOSTROMO – the Accurate Deck Plans (IMO, anyway...)

Fri 29 Nov 2019, 22:50

It doesn't feel screen accurate - too many long straight halls.
.
Check the movie again. ;)
For instance, the scene where Parker and Brett are on their way to the Galley, and gripe about that the rest of the crew ought to come Engineering for a change.
- They're a bit like Facehuggers, aren't they?
- Face ... huggers?
- Yeah, you know. Alien.
- ...?
- The horror movie, Alien.
- There's a horror movie called Alien?? That's really offensive! No wonder everyone keeps invading you.
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