Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

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Zor
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Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Zor » 2018-03-16 04:19am

In this scenario shortly after the Boer War in 1902 some miners in Rhodesia uncover an underground hanger, which they dig up revealing a set of eight arrowhead shaped vehicles about 70 meters long and 30 meters wide which they dig up. Britain sends some scientists and engineers poke about them and find that they contains a couple of chambers, including a big bay on the back with an airlock (with another used to gain egress into the machine) and a sub-divided compartment in the front with some odd seats and devices. The only evidence of the creator of these machines is a bizarre ancient skeleton with three arms, three legs, a three piece set of jaws on the underside of it's torso in one of the cockpits. They also notice a few strange things which look like metallic pill-bugs scuttling about. After a few months one of the engineer presses a button which causes the doors which causes the external airlock to shut, the vehicle to levetate a meter upward and then after making some noises launch itself up and fly up into the sky 408 km, achieving a stable orbit. A few scientists were stuck in inside the craft as it made its way into space. However at the same time a holographic GUI allows them to work out how to tell it how to land near Portsmouth. The four men inboard are shaken, nauseous and embarrassed (among other things) having to use the vehicle's bizarre lavatory, but are otherwise fine. The vehicle is then towed back for study and eventually the entire fleet is relocated from Africa to England.

What the Brits have found is a set of space shuttles able of carrying up to 440 tonnes of cargo into space and safely landing, as well as having a habitation section able to accommodate up to 20 people for a month (they have water recyclers but food would need to be brought along). The cargo bay is 6,300 cubic meters and has a canadarm like remote controlled waldo for manipulating things. Though they require an organic operator they're mostly automated. They are fully capable of making a flight to the moon in 8 hours, though their software prevents them from traveling further from the earth than that. Every sixteen flights they'll enter a maintenance cycle which lasts about a weeks and they take in fuel by slurping up water The ships are able to communicate with each other using advanced radio as long as there are not any planets in the way. In short they are very useful for getting modules up into space. If they were willing to send it all up in pieces all the bits of HMS Dreadnought could be sent up in less than a week using this launch fleet.

Which gets to the crux of the matter, given this high end level of launch capacity could Edwardian Engineering contrive and put together Satellites, Space Stations, Space Suits and so forth and what would they be like? What roles would they be useful in? If not right away, how much of a boost to space development would this provide?

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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-16 08:00am

No solar cells, no nuclear reactors. No way to power a satellite except batteries. Internal combustion isn't a very practical solution because you have to bring up your oxygen supply, and the history of air-independent propulsion is riddled with examples of things going horribly wrong.

Radio is in its infancy and the technology to track and communicate with spacecraft isn't really there. The shuttles can talk to each other, but not with anything else.

Those are going to be the biggest obstacles you can't work around just by making things freaking big and heavily built, which is otherwise probably a viable solution to most of the engineering problems.
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by LaCroix » 2018-03-16 10:49am

It's 1908 Britain - They will fill the cargo hold with cannonballs, bricks, and anvils, and drop them from orbit on their enemies until Britannia rules not only the waves, but all land. This is the ultimate bomber fleet.
A minute's thought suggests that the very idea of this is stupid. A more detailed examination raises the possibility that it might be an answer to the question "how could the Germans win the war after the US gets involved?" - Captain Seafort, in a thread proposing a 1942 'D-Day' in Quiberon Bay

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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-03-16 11:25am

More likely HE bombs, made from 11 in. naval rifle shells. And, thus was born His Majesty's Royal Space Force, with three orbital bombers, Scylla, Charybdis, and Ariel.

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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-03-16 01:25pm

Zor, you didn't just read Warlord of the Air, did you? But anyway this sorta reminds me of that. Not that they're identical, but they do have similar concepts of a higher tech Victorian/Edwardian Imperial Britain going on.

Apparently the killer app in that book was fixed wing aircraft...

Anyway. It's a bit of a leap from 'go into space' to 'planetary empire' or whatever. I suspect one of the first priorities will be using one of these vehicles as some kind of ultra high end diplomatic shuttle/royal plaything/tech demonstrator. They're not big enough to carry more than a few Edwardian era equivalent special forces, so I wouldn't expect them to be used as Space Marine drop-shuttles or whatever. High altitude bombing is far more likely to be an option if they are militarized (and they will almost certainly be).

Here's a thought-- if they're powerful enough to zoom into space, are they strong enough to pull gliders? That might be one way to increase atmospheric transport capacity.

I'd expect their first encounter with vacuum to be rather rude. This was an era which thought space was filled with 'aether', after all. They can probably make some sort of sealed capsule for space stations-- diving bells were nothing new at this point in time, and early submarines were starting to be built, so they had at least the beginnings of the idea thereof-- but air supply is the problem. When did people start bottling oxygen?
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-03-16 01:54pm

I'm assuming the onboard Space Travel for Dummies app instructed His Majesty's aethernauts on the realities of space.
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-16 02:48pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-03-16 01:25pm
I'd expect their first encounter with vacuum to be rather rude. This was an era which thought space was filled with 'aether', after all.
No. No, at this point it was quite well understood that outer space was airless. The luminiferous aether* was not imagined to be a material substance in the normal sense of the word, but rather something that solid matter (such as the planets) could pass through without drag and would not interact with.

Honestly, vacuum exposure is the LEAST of their problems for Edwardian spaceflight, the one they are best equipped to deal with. What would be crippling would be the lack of communication and electrical equipment, and of power generation.

*(which had already been proven not to exist, it's just that there was no scientific theory that could adequately explain the behavior of light in its absence)
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by TimothyC » 2018-03-18 01:14am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-03-16 08:00am
No solar cells, no nuclear reactors. No way to power a satellite except batteries. Internal combustion isn't a very practical solution because you have to bring up your oxygen supply, and the history of air-independent propulsion is riddled with examples of things going horribly wrong.
there is actually one mechanism they might be able to make work - solar thermal. Pointing it is going to be a pain and a half however
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by The_Saint » 2018-03-18 02:57am

I predict at least one gets destroyed early on due to user error (unless built form something quite sturdy).

Hmmm 1902... hmmm 8 of.... assuming Britain retains all 8 then I would foresee all geographical "firsts" falling to Britain (1st to summit Mt Everest, 1st to poles, etc). I would expect someone would try and pitch a naval shell out the rear door from a height at some point to deal with reticent natives/enemies. It's a V2 equivalent: "click of the fingers" and sudden death raining from the skies.

I'd expect the pursuit of rocketry would take off explosively (metaphorically and literally) as every other nation tries to catch up.

The one weird thing I'd expect is for the alt-Royal Air Force to derive from the Navy and not from the Army as it did in otl. Just a sneaky feeling.
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-18 01:51pm

TimothyC wrote:
2018-03-18 01:14am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-03-16 08:00am
No solar cells, no nuclear reactors. No way to power a satellite except batteries. Internal combustion isn't a very practical solution because you have to bring up your oxygen supply, and the history of air-independent propulsion is riddled with examples of things going horribly wrong.
there is actually one mechanism they might be able to make work - solar thermal. Pointing it is going to be a pain and a half however
Hm. Yeah, someone would have to keep re-pointing the array by hand and eye all the time, though a sufficiently advanced clockwork mechanism might do the trick for some applications, given that an object in a stable orbit has a predictable angle to the sun.
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-03-18 03:17pm

Since most required fields of science and engineering are lacking to take full advantage of free ride to orbit most obvious application of such vehicle is strategic bomber and fast transport. If WWI still happens in this altered time line then Germany gets defeated or surrenders rather quickly. There were some biplanes and zeppelin bombers used in WWI so the concept clearly was well understood just aircraft of that era were lacking in capabilities.

Fully loaded those shuttles could drop around 3500 tons of bombs, that's about the same capacity largest WWII bombing raids involving hundreds of aircraft had. Only in this case Germany would have no means to counter large scale air attacks. Germany would loose its fleet and shipyards in no time, factories and cities would get bombed like in a WWII. Psychological factor also would count when your enemy can attack any place they want with some sort of alien craft you have no way to shoot down.

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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Titan Uranus » 2018-03-19 04:23pm

Workable radio is already taking off for naval communication, and they could definitely build a mechanical mechanism to point thermal solar panels at the sun.

Also, forget something as useless as a bomber, outfit these shuttles with a myriad of autocannons and 400 tons of armor, turn them into gunships/assault transports and just straight up kidnap any leader causing you issues.

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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-03-19 05:21pm

Any autocannon other than Nordenfelts available in that time? And why not both a gunship and a bomber?
"Beware the Beast, Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone amongst God's primates, he kills for sport, for lust, for greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of Death.."
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Re: Edwardian Space Engineering (RAR!)

Post by Titan Uranus » 2018-03-19 09:01pm

U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-03-19 05:21pm
Any autocannon other than Nordenfelts available in that time? And why not both a gunship and a bomber?
The Pom-Pom 1 pounder maxim, Hotchkiss guns, and 1 inch gatlings (rare and long since obsolete) that I know of.
Because without proper sights bombers are useless, and there are too few anyway. Whereas the issues with gunboats are long since solved. Hell, you probably don't need autocannons, just mgs and a quick-firing gun, like most gunboats. I'm just assuming that the Brits would pull out all the best gear for their unstoppable, uninterceptable, might-as-well-be-teleporting gunships of death and kidnapping.

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