The scale of Nostromo.

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Sharing some ruminations on Nostromo (inspired while I admire my Eaglemoss replica…)

Based on dimensions calculated by Graham J. Langridge (documented on his Nostromo poster and at Scott Middlebrook’s ‘Vehicles’ page), the Nostromo would sit pretty big on the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39.

Nostromo on Launch Pad B (the north-most pad at LC-39. The launch pad is approx. 3,000 ft by 2,500 ft (914 m by 762 m).

 

KSC’s Launch Complex 39 is strategically located next to a barge site and a variety of structures, including a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF), Press Site, Launch Control Center (LCC), and a crawlerway to the pads. The crawlerway, leading to pads 39B on the left and 39A on the right, can be seen extending from the massive VAB at the left in this photo. The VAB (situated in the center, foreground), which covers eight acres and stands 525 feet tall (by contrast, the Nostromo is estimated to be 320 ft tall), is used for assembly, stacking and mating of Space Shuttle elements. Originally built for assembly of Apollo/Saturn vehicles and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations, the VAB is one of the largest buildings in the world. The LCC, seen here as the small white building to the upper right of the VAB, is where launch, mission support, and loading are controlled. (from Wikipedia)

 

LC-39 is an isolated spot, which would be necessary for a spaceport that supported commercial towing vehicles (unless, of course, the Solomons is a space-based port, which I currently do not believe). Public viewing areas for Space Shuttle launches were set in areas anywhere from 2 to 5.5 miles (3.2 to 8.8 km) from the launch site.

 

Cape Canaveral

 

I would like to get a better idea of how big a mess Nostromo’s lifter quads would make as she takes off, so I have done some rough calculations and determined that her engines produce roughly 2,300 times greater thrust than the combined might of the Space Shuttle’s three RS-25 engines. (Nostromo’s data is based on documentation in Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, page 136).

 

STS-110 Atlantis launch

 

Screen evidence in ALIEN (1979) indicates hurricane-force winds at landing and take-off.

 

 

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Also factored in would be the sonic vibration effects caused by the ship’s lifters. In Alan Dean Foster’s Alien novelization (page 153), it is described thusly:

     Lambert studied her board. “Orbital re-entry computed and entered. I’m matching up positions with the refinery now. Have it in a second. There.” She hit a series of buttons in sequence. Numbers flashed above Dallas’ head.

“Good enough. We’ll correct when we’re up, if necessary. Stand by for liftoff.”

Swathed in roiling dust, the Nostromo began to vibrate. A roaring rose over the howl of the storm, a man-made thunder that echoed across lava hillocks and shattered hexagonal basalt columns.

Wow! That’s pretty intense.

I am going to err conservatively and guess that the Nostromo’s engines might generate winds somewhere in the Category 1 range (74-95 mph or 119-153 km/h) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. I think this because the wind effects are a combination of the engines’ output as well as the force of those massive intakes as they draw in atmosphere to feed them.

These thoughts are informing my plans for a spaceport in the Solomons, which by the early 2100s might have been expanded with artificial islands by a certain company with the resources to foot the bill.

 

Concept art of an artificial island.

 

I have also drawn some sketches of what it might look like to have blast shields (à la Hadley’s Hope) around the launch area, but they would be massive: possibly as tall as 715 ft (217 m) when deployed, which would roughly be right up to the bottom edge of Nostromo’s open landing gear doors.

 

Nostromo landing pad blast doors

 

The scale of the Nostromo (and its supporting industry) is massive and gives some intriguing insights into the 22nd Century economy that would support (and drive) such mining operations, eh?

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