Welcome to Rana Station

Welcome to Rana Station

By Jan S. Gephardt

This is a re-post and update of a blog post that originally ran on Jan S. Gephardt’s blog “Artdog Adventures” last summer. Welcome to Rana Station! We thought you might enjoy a glimpse of how she designed the XK9s’ space station home.

Rex, Shady, and the rest of the Orangeboro Pack, the sapient police dogs in my science fiction novels, live in a space station that is almost a character in its own right. That’s partially because of the culture, partially because of the communities, and partially because of the incessant need to grow food everywhere possible.

What’s the origin of Rana Station?

I chose the classic Stanford Torus as the basis for my design. However, like many sf authors I’ve adapted it. Rana is home to 8.4 million humans and 2.4 million ozzirikkians, a sovereign entity with a total population of 10.8 million. That’s far too many people to fit on the original, which was only designed to support about 10,000 people.

Stanford Torus illustration by Don Davis shows a classic view of the space colony
The Stanford Torus space habitat design: In this 1975 painting by Don Davis, we see the single stationary mirror that would capture solar energy and reflect light to the secondary mirrors around the single torus. In my concept, Rana would need a much more elaborate system of mirrors to accommodate all eight Wheels.

Eight tori, not just one (as in the classic Stanford design), counter-rotate for balance and stability. A long central “Hub,” kind of like an axle links the eight habitat wheels. Also, because they must hold more inhabitants, the tori are bigger. I based the idea of this possibility on tech first extrapolated for a Bishop Ring.

Rana–from space!

I’ve tried numerous times and in several different ways to visualize for myself how Rana would look on approach. Just running numbers in my head doesn’t bring it alive for me at all. The best way I’ve managed so far to approximate an exterior view is a “quick & dirty” extrapolation in Adobe Illustrator, using a PNG of a bicycle wheel (repeated 8 times) with a transparent background.

I've managed a "quick & dirty" extrapolation of how Rana would look from space in Adobe Illustrator, using a PNG of a bicycle wheel (repeated 8 times) with a transparent background.
Admittedly, both quick and dirty, but it gives a general feel. The smaller wheels represent the ozzirikkians’ habitat wheels. Never met an ozzirikkian? You can change that! Read the book! You’ll meet several.

It’s still not right, because it doesn’t recreate the space docks and the manufacturing structures. but if you think of the spokes as symbolic of all the elevators from various parts of the 1-G habitat to the Hub, it does give a general idea of what the “wheels” would kinda-sorta look like.

A problem of gravity

If you think this “wheel” structure looks familiar, that’s because it does. Ever since the Stanford Torus was introduced, it’s seemed to many the most earth-like, understandable, and workable of the space-colony habitat designs . . . at least, as far as movies and TV go.

We aren’t likely to be able to provide “artificial gravity” that works like magnetism and switches on or off, at least, not by using any laws of physics that we currently know. Therefore, the gravitation needs to be provided by centrifugal force, created by building rotating megastructures in space.

Interior concept art for the Elysium space station shows a much less steep-sided valley than I imagined for Rana Station's habitat wheels. But it gives a glimpse of the inside of a wheel structure.
Interior concept art for the Elysium space station shows a much less steep-sided valley than I imagined for Rana Station’s habitat wheels. But it gives a glimpse of the inside of a wheel structure.

“Space Station DIY” survey

I’ve created several posts about space station designs on my “Artdog Adventures” Blog that I considered and studied in the course of my “Space Station DIY” series, when I was trying to figure out what kind of space station design I would use for the setting.

I considered  space stations/colonies in generalDyson structures, Bernal spheres, and O’Neill CylindersBut the torus seemed to me the most likely to provide a reliable 1-G environment that was comprehensible to terrestrial human brains.  I liked it better, and I got to be the decider because it’s my story.

I’m planning future posts about aspects of life inside those wheels, including a look at some of the maps and 3D elevations I’ve been creating as paper sculpture, to help me more realistically understand, develop and describe the settings inside this world I’m creating. Stay tuned.

Jan S. Gephardt’s science fiction mystery novel kicks off the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy with What’s Bred in the Bone. It’s now available from Amazon in Kindle or Paperback editions, or from Barnes & Noble in Nook or Paperback editions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Wikipedia for a good file of the painting by Don Davis  – NASA Ames Research Center (ID AC76-0525), of the original Stanford Torus, which is now in the Public Domain. To my chagrin, I can’t relocate the source of the PNG image I used to create my “quick & dirty” Rana Station visualization.  I apologize!  Thanks also to Geeks of Doom, who provided the Elysium concept art. 

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