01 October 2015

FWS Topics: The Military Space Station

Wars are often waged far from home, making logistics an important element in warfighting. This supply-train will be extended from miles to lightyears with the advent of war in other solar systems. Back on Terra, military organizations, especially navies, have constructed bases around the global to allow for shorter, more effective logistics and power projection. In space, the need will be the same, and one answer provide by fiction and reality is the space station. In this blogpost, FWS will examining the military space station in sci-fi, in the reality and in history.

What a Space Station Means to Space Travel and the Starflung Military
Right now, there are two space stations orbiting our blue marble, the ISS and the Chinese Tiangong 1. These stations are places of testing the effects of micro-gravity on the human body and other Terrestrial lifeforms, being labs in space, and platform for testing equipment in the rigors of space. While the ISS is a place of the global community cooperating on forwarding science, it is a safe port for humans in space. One of the original ideas for the space station by Wernher Von Braun was to be a launching pad for a manned mission to Luna and Mars. Having an space station would allow easier access to the solar system, and less taxing launching for deep space missions. If and when we go to Mars, it has been proposed that a space station be constructed there, to extend the safe ports of humanity, allowing for deeper reach. One after another, a string of space stations will connect Earth to the outer reaches of the Sol System and beyond. Space Stations can also be a common meeting place, a waystation, like Babylon 5, for more empty sectors of space. Another element of the importance of space stations is that they are a way of bring our atmospheric conditions to the cosmos. Consider that we have yet to find an Terran atmospheric standard world out there, and space stations could be the only way to bring humanity to the stars until we locate and conquer an Earth-like world. What about the importance of space stations for the future spacefaring military? Like naval ports and international military bases, the military space station will be to extend the range of their military units, easier mobilization, colonial defense, and projecting power/ownership of outer space real estate. We could see space stations be divided, with one portion being civilian and other being military.

The Battle Station vs. the Military Space Station
Terminology can be so much fun, especially in the genre of science fiction! One term that parallels the military space station is the "battle station" or "mobile assault platform". While classically, the space station is an stationary object in the black (hence the name), the battle station is an mobile military space station that is designed to be easily transported from hotspot to hotspot and is armed for combat and defensive operations.
This build-in mobile ability and armament sets the battle station from the space station.These battle-stations are considered by some to be the largest military spacecraft in fictional space navies, and while armed against attack (just not X-Wings piloted by newbie Jedi farm boys), the battle station do need support for their naval brethren, because the primary role of the massive constructions is planetary domination and power projection across an star system, not spacecraft engagements. While these combat space stations are mobile and even FTL capable, the amount of power needed is enormous. All of these factors add up to be a health sum of money, and some might view the cheaper, less mobile space station as a cheaper alternative...unless they are planning on blowing up planets. The advantage of the battle station is that it can be moved to the site of operation, and offer a great range of services to the taskforce and its personnel, like R&R, drydock, and larger medical facilities. Examples of these battle station are the Fleet Battle Station from Starship Troopers or the Zentraedi Fulbtzs Berrentzs Battle Station. Another good example, that is non-military, is the Endurance from Interstellar.  

The Role of  the Military Space Station

  • Warehouse: Any military operation is going to require logistical support, especially in the far reaches of interstellar space. Much like the Federation Starbases, the military space station allows for our future military organization to have a safe port to gather supplies away from the frontlines. Commercial vessels would use the military space station has an hub to delivery their cargo, instead of attempting to met the warship in unprotected space. This warehouse-in-space would also be an range extender for the supply chain to deep space military units. 
  • Oasis: Serving onboard a ship, either now, in future, or even the past, crews need a change of scenery from the drab grey bulkheads and endless blackness. Military space stations would a place where they could relax, get a drink, met new people, take advantage of rec centers, and the merchants, and each other. Just think of how nice it was when you were playing Mass Effect to come back to the Citadel, or that speech from Romilly in Interstellar when he talked about missing green. 
  • RV Point:  Military space stations could also be seen as an common assembly point for an massive military operations, as was the case with Starbase 375 during Operation: RETURN from ST:DS9 or the Fleet battle stations from SST. These space stations would be the central hub for the assembled units and serve these vessels and soldiers in a secure location. 
  • Strike Base: To borrow a phrase from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, space is big, really big, and the realistic distances between targets could be massive. Much like the RV point role, the military space station could also be an strike base for rapid response units, like the space forts from Enemy Mine. If you place your space fortress near an area of threat, you can rush forces there much quicker than coming dozens or hundreds of lightyears to get there. This reason is more concrete when we consider the horror of light speed travel and time dilation, if there is no soft sci-fi hyper drive to save us from that consideration. Much the space stations in The Forever War, these strike bases would be within "local time" of the enemy.  
  • Symbol of Power and Ownership: The military space station is a great way for saying "that I own this and this is mine because I put this space station here". When planted around a planet or within a star system, the military space station symbolizes your government's authority and power over this area of space. This also forms an anchor for your claim and a target for your enemies.  
  • Drydock/Repair station: Along with getting a beer, a tattoo, some more MREs, and some strange; the military space station will be a place to repair your battered warship. As seen in Star Trek, orbital space installations could offer drydock repair facilities for everything from a simple 3,000 lightyear tune-up or replacing whole sections of your starship after some superman from the 20th century tried to take revenge for the death of his beloved wife.
  • Headquarters: There are a number of works that project that future military organizations will make their primary HQ on a military space station, or even a regional HQ given that space is big...really big. An military sparefaring organization could construct military space stations, like Starbases, to be the regional or sector command base for operations.  
  • Hospital: Much like major urban medical centers with more extensive services and ability than the smaller regional hospitals, the same will be true in space. Smaller military outposts or even warships will not offer the medical facilities that a military space station will, and this makes the military space station a busy central hub during times of conflict with patients being shipped back to the space station trauma centers. This was well done in the 1997 Starship Troopers film and in Enemy Mine.       
The Military Space Station as an Invasion Platform
Some sci-fi creators have envisioned the military space station as an mobile platform for planetary invasions or even extensive operations in an certain star system. We have seen this with the Tet from Oblivion and the Fleet Battle station Ticonderoga from SST. Unlike a space naval taskforce, which mostly likely would have the space combat equivalent of an amphibious landing assault ship, the space station would serve as a the keystone for the invasion, offering greater services and abilities to the ground forces dirtside.
Consider that these invasion space station platforms could have first-rate medical services, on-demand manufacturing, R&R services, docking stations, and greater space for supplies and equipment. Of course, the bitch of the thing would be transporting the space station to the objective and the expensive of construction and maintenance.  The other element to consider is an hostile space station in orbit over the planetary combat theater would be a juicy target for the defenders. A good clean KEW hit or even a smuggled nuke could destroy the station and taking thousands of lives with it...not to mention the overall invasion operation.

Real-World Military Space Stations

USSR ALMAZ (1973-1976)
During the Cold War, there was a real concern that space would be the ultimate battlefield. The Soviet Union was wanting to putting up battle stations, spaceplanes, and even developing laser pistol technology. The first step was the Soviet Union "Almaz" stations and they were the only official military space stations ever put up into orbit...and they were short lived. This was developed during the icy portion of the Cold War and the Space Race. These Almaz stations were answer to the American MOL program, and Almaz was designed to be long-term, with crews rotated in and out like a normal space station. However, this space station was devoted to surveillance and possible engagement of hostile spacecraft and satellites with an custom-designed 23mm cannon or even space-to-space rockets. Added to these defensive system, a specially developed two KEW space cannon was constructed but never deployed. During the the 1970's, several Alamz stations were sent into orbit, but technical issues and the advancement of spy satellite technology caused cancellation. Only three crews successful manned the Almaz stations, and by 1977, the Alamz program was closed down.

USAF MOL Space Station (1969 Cancelled)
In 1960, the first spy satellites was deployed CORONA and the poor quality of these spy photos caused an attempts by the Soviets and Americans to put "astro-spy platforms" into space. While the Soviets were somewhat successful with their military space stations, the US effort under the CIA and USAF was cancelled before the Apollo landings. In the 1960's, the CIA and USAF recruited their own astronaut corps and designed their own spacecraft that could conduct missions in space ranging from surveillance to capturing USSR spy stations.
That military surveillance space stations was called Manned Orbiting Laboratory or MOL and it was based on the Gemini spacecraft. If successful, the Gemini B spacecraft would have been conducting missions over 40 days with extended support systems. The MOL platforms would have also been used in conjunction with the Astronaut Propulsion Unit (like the MMU) that could have allowed military astronauts to inspect Soviet spy satellites. To protect the program, the US government called the program MOL and told the public of military astronauts conducting military tasks in micro-gravity. The real story was for the MOL to be an astro-spy platform, taking photos of the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact. Once the mission over, the Gemini capsule would detach from the lab module, reentry while the module would burn up in the atmosphere. MOL was known by the KGB and there was effort to keep tabs on the program, and they developed their own military surveillance platform, ALMAZ.    

USAF/NASA Freedom (1980's-1990's Cancelled)
In the 1960's, NASA began a plan to construct an reusable space plane that could truck items into space and construct an space station. By the time of the Nixon Administration, the Space Shuttle was the only thing given funding, and the space station was put on hold. In the 1980's, the Reagan Administration took a renewed interest in manned space flight, and in the 1984 State of the Union speech, Reagan asked for an US space station. By 1988, the dual-keel space station design was re-branded "Freedom", and sold to the American public. This would finally make reality the original role of the Space Shuttle. Freedom would have been a home to both NASA operations and the US Air Force. According to some proposals, the USAF would have several modules to work in and used the Shuttle for transportation. This would not be the first time a piece of NASA hardware would be used for the US military; Shuttle Atlantis was often used by the US military. When Freedom was cancelled due to cost overruns, the USAF lost their foothold. Much of the research was folded into the ISS.

USAF SDI Space Station (1980's Cancelled)
During President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or Star Wars), there was many mad ideas floating around popular media. I can remember reading about SDI and how the US Air Force and NASA would be working on putting up all manner of weapon satellites to defend us against the Reds. Against their better wishes, NASA was going to allow the USAF to use the shuttles to truck some elements of SDI into orbit. There was even discussion of USAF exclusive spacecrafts to serve the SDI platforms. Added to this was the idea of a military-only space station that allowed crews access to the platforms and to have an in-space lab for military experiments and repair. This idea was thrown around, and one name I can remember was "monitor", but it was all for nothing...the USAF space station was axed along with all of SDI in the 1990's.

From the Fox Mulder Corner: The Rumored US Military Secret Space Station
During the apex of the Space Race, there were rumors of a secret American space program. During the 1960's, the US Air Force, there was indeed an military space program that was intended to operate orbital surveillance stations, like the MOL of the late 1960's. While this program was cancelled, there are still rumors. One of these states that this Black Space Program has off-world installations, space fleets, and even their own space station. Pictures of bad quality have been taken, and shown as evidence. Some believe that the robotic space shuttle, the Boeing X-37 has been taken as proof of an complex military space program. Others believe that the secret space station is connected to what British hacker Gary McKinnon found on secure government databases about off-world soldiers and space fleets.

Civilians on Military Space Stations
The majority of military space stations we've seen in sci-fi are populated with civilians. Either as family, traders, independent contractors, private military, or even simple businessmen; we see civilians on those tin-cans. I was reminded of this while watching episodes of B5 and DS9, and I could not help but think of Clerks. Civilians, human or alien, always bring another element to the lives of military personnel. This has been seen on the massive military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, where contractors perform all manner of jobs and duties. Hell, I nearly was one of them in 2009, when I nearly accepted a job to go to Afghanistan. Of course, the risk is greater for these civilians. When these stations are attacked, the civilians are at risk, and the military has to protect them as their tin-can is being attacked. So, I guess Clerks was right...the personal politics of the civilian does come into effect on military space installations.

Science Fiction and the Military Space Station
Space stations have been appearing in science fiction since nearly the beginning of the genre in the late 19th century, and have remained a popular setting for (mis)adventures ever since. While space stations are popular and well represented in sci-fi, the military space station is less so, but two of the most popular science fiction televisions of the 1990's were both set on mixed use military-ran space stations: DS9 and B5. Military space stations are used by creators to allow military units to gather, soldiers to have shore leave, and to demonstrate the power and technology of the setting. Some of these military outposts are designed specifically for the sole use of the military, but most are mixed use like we've seen in Babylon 5 and Mass Effect.
These mixed use military space stations allow creators an active, more dynamic setting to put their characters into, and allows other elements to make contact with the characters. This seen time and time again in Deep Space 9, Babylon 5, and Mass Effect. Military space stations are also a target. In some works, the primary objective is to knock the military space station, which at times, is the primary headquarters of the space military organization, like the Lysian Central Command in the TNG episode "Conundrum" or the K'titrak Mang from Wing Commander II. At other times, military space stations can be the "dead-end" to some military personnel's careers, or the frontier outpost or even entry "port authority" stations run by in-system "coast guard" units. It is often that these frontier outposts are the first contact with hostile alien civilizations as seen in the HALO universe. 

Fleet Battlestation Ticonderoga from the Starship Troopers film
While nearly element of the 1997 SST mission has been picked apart and analyzed, the massive battle-stations, like the Ticonderoga, have not been, and they a damned interesting element within the SST film universe. The Fleet battle station is an FTL capable mobile space station specially designed to be a harbor, RV point, and support hub for Fleet and MI operations. Given the situation in the film it is likely that the Fleet battle stations were an outgrown of the Bug Wars, and constructed specially for service along the Arachnid Quarantine Zone. As evidenced in the film, the battle stations seem to allow for rapid incursions into Arachnid space and are a assembly point for Fleet and MI personnel. It is also a place for getting a drink, a tattoo, and getting in a fight. After the disastrous battle of Klendathu, the Ticonderoga became a mass-causality center. While being featured in one of the most powerful and moving scenes in the film, the Ticonderoga is barely talked about in the film itself and on SST websites.

Federation Starbases from the Star Trek Universe
The term "star base" has been around since the 1944 short story "Star Base X" by  R.M. Williams, but it was Star Trek that propelled the term into the collective knowledge of the public. In the ST universe, the Starbase is an off-world installation operated by Starfleet that are designed for a number of purposes and roles. By the 24th century, Starfleet had over 700 Starbases of various sizes, capabilities, and operational environments. There has been some confusion with the regards to the number of Starbases. Over 700 is a massive number, and a massive jump from the less than two dozen seen in TOS.  I am not 100% sure that these Federation off-world installation are numbered in sequence. The numbering system could be like interstellar zip codes or area codes. Then we have the Starbases that carry specific names, like Sierra, Montgomery, or Earhart. Why the difference? No one is quite sure. While it is certainly a mistake by the scriptwriters, but why did producers let it slide? Is there an reason? I like it could be that the Federation names a select few Starbases for individuals. 
Some Starbases are massive orbital installations designed to support Starships and interstellar travel and trade, like Starbase One in orbit around Terra (AKA Spacedock) and Starbase 74. Others are mere planetary surface bases with a few buildings and landing platforms, or are massive urban structures with state-of-the-art facilities, like Starbase 515. Much like size, these Starbases are vary in services and mission. Some are designed to beef Federation present on colonies or on member worlds. Others are to be an frontier outpost, delivery services to the wilderness. However, most Starbases are not designed solely for military purposes, but can be during times of crisis. Starbases are not the only space stations operated by Starfleet.
There is the little matter of the Deep Space Stations and what the hell they are. In ST lore, there are several Deep Space stations, and the Gods-of-Trek have not informed us why some Federation space stations are named "Deep Space X" instead of "Starbase XYZ." My theory is that the key difference in Deep Space Stations and the normal Starbases is location, role, and geography. Deep Space Stations are located well away from Federation territory, like Bajor, and are designed to be a frontier outpost with all manner of support facilities, along with being an establishing factor for commerce, and they seem to be space stations (unlike Starbases). It could be that the Deep Space designation is retired after the borders and boundaries of the Federation catch up to the DS station, and they become then a numbered Starbase.  

Terok Nor from ST:DS9
During the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, the Terok Nor space station in orbit around the planet was the center of the Cardassian occupation and a symbol of the rape of Bajor and her people. Terok Nor was a major ore processing station that took the mineral of Bajor and processed them of off-world transport by the Cardassian Union. The history of the station altered in 2369, when the occupation of Bajor was ended by the Cardassians, and the provisional government of Bajor asked the Federation for help in reconstruction. Terok Nor was an asset that the Bjor government wanted to hang onto, but needed Federation help in restoring and running. That lead to Terok Nor translation from mining station to Starfleet frontier outpost Deep Space 9. Much like the Babylon 5 Station, Deep Space Nine was at the center of many of the events in galaxy during the 2370's. Deep Space Nine itself was a battleground many times during the Klingon-Federation War and the Dominion Wars. There is little information about the station after the war, and some sources claim that the station was moved back into orbit over Bajor. While Babylon 5 was more successful at incorporating the space station into the overall story of the universe at first, DS9 would come into its own around the time the Dominion showed up. Terok Nor would go on to become one of the iconic space stations of science fiction.

The Babylon 5 Station from Babylon 5
One of the most iconic and well known sci-fi space stations was the Babylon Station from 1990's television series Babylon 5. Constructed in neutral territory after the bloody Minbari-Earth War, the five-mile only O'Neil cylinder space station was developed to be a place of an peaceful exchange, trade, and diplomacy, not war. Despite its mission of peace, the B5 station was run by EarthForce and protected by three squadron of Star Fury space fighters. Out of the quarter-of-a-million population, 2,000 were EarthForce personnel. Throughout the series, the Babylon station was at the center of most of the major events of history during the 2250's and 2260's, and the mission of the station switched from peace to victory during the Crisis in the Earth Alliance, the Shadow War, and the Narn-Centauri War. Unlike DS9, the Babylon station was so massive that the lower special effects budget could not allow for the true grandeur of the station to be seen. Some effects shots were done showing the cylinder-shaped world of B5, but mostly we saw coordinators, matte paintings, and the Zocalo. Babylon 5 is often said to be the way to center a fictional world and work around a space station. 

The UNSC Orbital Defense Platforms from HALO 2 and HALO: Reach
Towards the end of the Human-Covenant War, the UNSC constructed the orbital defense platforms that were completely developed around their massive Magnetic Accelerator Cannons (MAC). These MAC stations were intended to knock out alien capital ships with an one-punch killer blow. According to background material, the MAC cannon can fire an 3,000 pound KE tungsten round at 4% of light speed. This force can easily punch through the shielding of two to three Covenant warships. While little more than space artillery stations, the MAC platforms  did have crew habitats and the living spaces were seen in some in depth during the first part of HALO 2.  During the battle of Reach and the battle of Earth in 2552, MAC platforms were front-and-center during the battle in space. 

Gateway Station from ALIENS
When Ripley is recovered from her shuttlecraft, she brought to the massive Gateway Station in orbit around Terra. For the first act of the film, Gateway is the main stage for Ripley learning about her present, her past, and her dim future. Gateway Stations seems to be a massive modular installation that hosts American military elements, Mercy hospital, along with ICC, and the colonial admin. The script, Gateway Station was called "sprawling complex of modular habitats", and was originally called "Earth Station Beta" in the 1983 script by Cameron, and was to serve as a reminder to Ripley and the audience of how long Ripley had be floating out in the cold void of space. Gateway station was designed by Robert Skotak, and it was part model and part matte painting with recycled ships from Gerry Anderson's Terrahawks. Gateway Station was seen again in the Dark Horse's 1990 ALIENS comic series. The station served as an refugee center for people able to get off of Earth during the global xenomorph infestation. This is where Ripley, Newt, and Hicks are reunited, and they plan the mission to the xenomorph homeworld to aliennap the Queen Mother Alien. 

The Imperial Death Star Battle Station from Star Wars
There are no military space stations on this list that are as well known or powerful than the Star Wars Death Stars. In the first iconic film, we see a mobile battle station that can and does destroy entire planets with one zap from it mega-laser and is the very symbol of the Empire. This megastructure is the size of a moon, staffed with over one million Imperial military personnel, and requires more power than entire settled planets. The Death Star was intended to be the symbol of the power and strength of the Empire, bullying worlds into remaining loyal to the Sith-led Empire.
However, the Death Star is completely bat-shit insane. Consider the amount of money it took to construct, staff, and operate this military space stations...no wonder there was an Rebel Alliance. It wasn't the tyrannic rule of the Imperial, it was the bloody taxes to pay for the thing that got people pissed off! Then there is it size. With being 160 kilometers in size, means its surface area would be 14 million square miles...those elevators must be faster than an attack fighter, and the power source would have to be an sun...making the Death Star an Dyson Sphere! Of course, to blow up a planet, you would need an sun to power the death-beam.
Beside the extreme cost and greedy power demands, there is the military purpose to the Death Star. Originally, the Death Star battle station was developed to be the symbol of the Sith and their rule over the galaxy through fear of being zapped like Alderaan. Again, this makes no sense. Blowing up planets is an extreme decision, and the effect would be crushing on the star system and the economics of the galaxy. So, if the blowing up your planet is the last resort...why else would have this thing? The massive super star destroyer class is basically an mobile battle station with massive amount of capability and firepower with the cost of the Death Star? 

Lysian Central Command from the ST:TNG Episode "Conundrum"
One of the most "alien" looking military space stations comes to us from the rather good TNG episode "Conundrum". When the crew of the D gets their memories suppressed, an hostile Satarran shapeshifter poses a Starfleet officer, and steers the D into his people's mortal enemy: the Lysians. Both the Satarrans and the Lysians were similar in technological level, and the war was dragging on...so, the Satarrans cook up this plan to have the Enterprise crew believe that they were at war with the Lysians, and that the Enterprise mission was to destroy the headquarters of the Lysian Alliance: an massive military space station.  However, the Federation were vastly superior, and a single photon torpedo could finish off their space-based orbital command center, killing 15,000 Lysian military personnel. Lucky, the crew stops McDuff, and the central command remains undamaged. While some arresting visuals, the Lysian central command is a interesting example of an alien military space station.

The "Fort" Space Stations for the Hornorverse
Military space stations are key element and set piece for the Honor Harrington novels. These stations, or "forts", where placed in key strategic points, like an important planet, star systems, or even wormhole burn-out sites. This was seen with the heavy space fort presence around the Manticore wormhole junction. While forts were fitted with defensive and offensive systems, they were beefed up with laser platforms that added to the defensive profile of the station. Often forts are on the frontlines of any space battle, given their placement near wormhole sites. Taking the space fort is often one of the primary goals of any attack force. This is one of those series that enjoys using military space stations in all situations.

The BTA Military Space Fortress from Enemy Mine
In the year 2092, the human is united under the BTA in the conquest of space, but the best interstellar real estate is already claimed by an alien race, the Drac. This starts a war that is waged in deep space, far away from Terra and Dracon. The BTA constructs ringed military space fortresses that are the forward operating base of this war. Both human and Drac deploy space fighters, and our film opens with the Drac launching an strike on the unnamed  BTA space fortress. We know very little about the setting of the film before the laser bolt start flying.
This example of an military space station is interesting, because the BTA uses these ringed stations like an spacecraft carrier, along with being a typical space station...however, I also have another theory about these space fortresses. During a rewatch of Enemy Mine for this blogpost, I think we maybe seeing the end of the war, rather than the beginning. I think these ringed space stations were positioned on the border between the system the BTA had wrestled away from the Drac, and we meant to keep our liberated worlds.  The Drac fighter strike at the beginning of the 1985 film is attempt to dislodge the BTA hold on some contested solar system. Another theory is that these BTA space forts were mobile, and the four cones along the axis were, in fact, rocket boosters. I am not sure and there is so little to go on here, but they are an intriguing space station.

The Citadel from the Mass Effect Universe
One of the most celebrated, iconic, and lovingly designed space stations in all of science fiction is the Citadel from the Mass Effect universe. It is a marvel to behold, and a designation that I always look forward to seeing and experiencing. While the Citadel is not a strictly military space station, it is the center of the galaxy political structure and there is a heavy military presence from every member and non-member state of the Citadel Council. Some of the key battles of the Mass Effect series have been wage around the Citadel station or even over it. During the Reaper Invasion, the Citadel was bastion of shelter from the storm.

The Forerunner Installations from the HALO Universe
There are few space stations in science fiction that are as monstrous as the Halo mega-structure rings or as powerful. Designed to be both the destroyer and savior, the Halo Rings were the last, best hope for victory against the flood 100,000 years ago. In the first HALO game, we all learned the horrifying truth...that the Halo Rings were to destroy all higher ordered life to starve out the Flood. Each installation had an effective range of 25,000 light years, causing there to be 12 shattered around the galaxy. When the parasite was dead, the Halo rings were to seeded life on several worlds where it was beginning to prosper. These races became us and the alien races of the Covenant. Much more than a weapon, the Halo rings were a research lab to study the Flood, and holding center for the seeds of new life.  

Phoenix Station of the CDF from the Old Man's War Universe
The Colonial Defense Force and the Colonial Union are both based around the primary human colony of Phoenix. The heart of the CDF is the in-orbit military installation, Phoenix Station. Several of the Old Man's War pivotal scenes in the series take place onboard the massive station, and the station continues to be a center point of the Old Man's War universe.  In the original book, it is described as a massive station with hundreds of ships surrounding it, and some of the characters talk about the station being the center of the human universe. Here is were newly minted CDF soldiers are brought to, and where the fate of the Colonial Union is decided as well. The station is well known for having a great burger place as well as state-of-the-art research facilities.

The Zentraedi Fulbtzs Berrentzs Battle Station from the ROBOTECH Universe

The very heart of Zentraedi is an military space battle station that is an mass of organic technology wrapped in an mountain shape. This 900 miles battle station is foldable and is the headquarters of the Zentraedi people, along with the home of Supreme Command Dolza. Armed to the teeth with thousands of missile launchers and DE cannons, it is also home to hundred of thousands of troops and mechs. More than just an mobile headquarters, the Fulbtzs Berrentzs is also the primary cloning facility and does have the ability to create warship via cellular mitosis construction. During the final battle with the Earth forces and the rebel Zentraedi, Dolza ordered all of the Zentraedi 4+ million warships to Terran space to whip the planet clean of life. At the center of the storm of alien warships was the command base of the Zentraedi people. During the final battle of the 1st Robotech War, the SDF-1 gained access via the Daedalus protocol, and unleashed reflex warhead missiles inside the command base primary spacedock. The command base ripped itself apart, and the resulting explosion created collateral damage to the surrounding warships. Without the command HQ, the rest of the loyal Zentraedi were in chaos, allowing the battle to be won...but at a horrible price.

Battle School Station from Ender's Game
Battle School, the space-based military academy, that trains the next-generation of military commanders. To encourage the next generation, Battle School features an massive micro-gravity arena that allows the teams (armies) of Battle School to engage in force-on-force training. These games are one of the key social outlets of the academy and some of the best scenes in the book/movie. In the 2013 film adaptation, Battle School was moved from the asteroid belt to Earth orbit, but the harshness of the Battle School society and training is the same. Since the release of Ender's Game, Battle School has become of the most well known examples of an military space station.

The Space Fortresses from Legends of the Galactic Heroes
In the Japanese military sci-fi book series that was adapted into anime, the Legends of the Galactic Heroes has their own type of military space stations: the space fortress. Some of the space fortresses are tradition space station designs, like Garmisch, while others are more unique and giants in mass. Some of the Imperial space forts are massive, like 40 trillion tons for Geiersburg Fortress which can hold up to 16,000 warships! To protect these larger space fortresses, they are equipped with massive out-power lasers and surrounded in liquid metal shielding. Much like many of the military space stations, these space fortress are targeted during operations, and considered to be prizes for the enemy force. The liquid metal shielding is unique and gets these space station an original look.

The Ragnar Anchorage Ammunition Reserve Station from Battlestar Galactica
During the Cylon Wars, the Colonial Fleet constructed a number of space-based warehouses for critical military supplies. Ragnar Anchorage ammunition reserve was one, and it played an important part for the exodus of the Galactica and the civilian fleet. This ringed stations was constructed in the upper atmosphere of the gas giant Ragnar on the edge of the Cyrannus quad-star mega-system;s gamma/delta stars. With the Galactica being retrofitted into a museum, the weapon stores were emptied, and to protect the fleet, the Ragnar station became the logical site for the last stop before jumping past the red line. Given that Galactica was an older, original battlestar, the out-dated ammunition stored at Ragnar was prefect for the BSG-075.   

The Robotech Masters' Factory Satellite from the ROBOTECH Universe
The Robotech factory satellite is in some ways is the football of the ROBOTECH universe. This massive mostly automated military space factory installation was originally organically constructed around an asteroid by the Robotech Masters around the year 1760 AD. In 1807 AD,  the factory satellite was given to their warrior slaves, the Zentraedi. For a great deal of time, the factory satellite assembled a variety of mecha, fighters, and warships for the Zentraedi and their wars. After the destruction of the majority of the Zentraedi armada during the final battle over Earth, the factory satellite became one of the few remaining Zentraedi military bases still under Zentraedi control and operation.
That changed in 2013 AD, when a small force of allied Zentraedi and Terran fighters attacked and secured the factory satellite, folding it back to Terran space. In orbit of Terra, the factory satellite became the primary military construction site and the shipyard that gave birth to the SDF-2 and SDF-3. The majority of the REF Pioneer mission mecha, ships, and fighters were assembled at the orbital factory. After the chaos of the Robotech Masters' invasion and the Invid, the fate of the factory satellite is unknown. Some believe that it was folded away to an secure location, others believe that pirates took the station during the chaos. Others say that the factory satellite was folded to the location of the REF and it became the construction yards for the REF fleet that retook Earth during the 3rd Robotech War.

The ODIN and LOKI Military Space Stations from COD: GHOSTS
In the so-so 2013 COD: GHOSTS, we see an two military space stations being at the center of the events of the game. In 2017, prior to the game's events, the USAF constructed an orbital weapons platform called ODIN which was modeled after the real-life THOR kinetic bombardment station. Unlike the THOR, ODIN and LOKI were constructed around a military space station, allowing crews a place to work and maintenance the platforms. ODIN was hijacked by the South American Federation just as the station was coming on-line, the Federation was successful in launching the kinetic "rods-from-god" down on the United States. In one day, the US went from Superpower to 3rd World nation. In 2027, the Federation constructed their own ODIN, called LOKI, which was another kinetic bombardment station. Not learning their lesson, the US deployed space soldiers to take LOKI and use it to destroy the Chile Federation base and the Federation navy. While sort of stupid, it was cool to finally play a space combat level in COD, even if it reminded me of Moonraker.

Next Time on FWS...
It is time...finally. On October 12, 2010, an landmark military shooter video game was released: the reboot of EA's Medal of Honor franchise. That was five years ago, and in the next installment of FWS, I will be looking back one of my favorite video games of all time, and one of the best military shooters of all time as well. Look for this retrospective on October 12!


  1. For me and my own sci fi setting i am coming up with, military oriented space stations was a sticky problem for me for a while. Mainly, trying to answer the question of how to make space stations not so vulnerable to newtons first law when being shot at. A mobile space ship can, once the distances are great enough simply dodge any incoming weapons fire, and by staying mobile force missiles to expend their fuel making course corrections until the run out. Against a mobile ship, weapons have a maximum effective range. Against an immobile space station, maximum effective range of weapons fire is much greater. As a result a warship can stay at very long ranges, moving out of the way of any weapons fire that a space station can throw at it, but since the space station is not maneuvering capable at all, a warship can hit the station at ranges far greater than the station can hit the ship. And trying to solve this problem kept me stuck for a little while, until I came to the realization that the only way to solve it, is the station cannot afford to be immobile. It has to have some way of maneuvering in combat to avoid getting bombarded at long range.

    This is where I came up with the term Base Ship. Essentially performs all the functions of a starbase, but has a full set of engines to allow it the maneuver in combat if necessary. Base Ships in my setting are not FTL capable, they only have sublight engines, as they have very little need to actually travel to different planets. The FTL capable variety also exists in my setting, but these are termed as super heavy starships, and as such are considered actual starships, though many designs perform the logistical support role of a baseship, and are not merely just an oversized battleship. I reslize the baseship idea is probably not absolutely workable is every given situation, and that settings may prefer to stick with relatively immobile space stations, but the baseship idea was the only thing i could come up with to keep a station from falling victim to that pesky newtons first law.

    1. If you need some protection for immobile space station against maneuverable starships why not load those stations with A LOT of counter-measures & point range cannons/missiles? The mass saved on emitted FTL+STL engines could be used to offset any advantage a spaceship can have by adding more of those protection measures.
      Of course if your setting already have FTL why not adding some energy shields or other techno-magic gimmick?

      One other way to protect space stations is to build them out of asteroids. The mass require for blocking kinetic projectiles is in the kilo to megatons, building a station with such a thick hall will be crazy so the solution be use local materials. An asteroid can be drag to orbit/location and drilled into it. Airlocks, radars, optics, cannons turrets, missile silos etc. will be placed on the surface while the power supply, HQ, habitats etc. hidden way under.
      Such a design could be grows 'naturally' out of mined asteroids. Some nation/corporate mine an asteroid for metals that like in earth mines would be formed as veins. Quickly the asteroid becomes tunneled like a switch cheese. Soon other nations/corporate become interstate in the mining operation and nation/corporate in charge decide to arm and protect the asteroid against any 'hostile takeover'.
      Such space station/mine is a set for a great war scenarios. Any competing nation/corporate wouldn't want to blow the mine infrastructures so landing parties and boarding with Close Quarters Combat at zero G in the tunnels of the mine could spice those rather boring space fights…


    2. Well defensive missiles and guns don't do anything to stop the rail gun weapons in my setting, as the rounds are designed to be immune to any practical defensive fire.

      Asteroid combat bases aren't so much of a practical solution in my setting, as it is a setting 2500 years in the future, and weapons are incredibly powerful as a result, running up into the triple digit megaton range. While armor, shields and a defensive technology of my own creation known as a defense field are all used, it is a high technology setting. even if these weapons dont break through the asteroid base or demolish it in a few hits, they will still crack the hell out of it and cause it to lose airtight capability very quick. However in my setting asteroid bases are widely used for one purpose, and that is storage of drone fighters. Since the controllers dont' need to be with the drones, the controllers are usually stationed on a nearby planet or moon, and the drone base itself is unmanned, and as a result, its not a big deal if the base is lost. With post scarcity societies lime mine, manpower is considered to be a much more valuable resource than equipment.

      The high technology setting also makes societies post scarcity, at least in the regards of a large number of resources. However habitable planets are the main value, as even terraforming a planet is still a massive effort that takes centuries, so usually when fights occur over a planet, a lot of care is taken to ensure that the planet itself doesn't take too serious damage in a conflict. However despite the 2500 years in the future setting, I still prefer not to use handwavium solutions whenever possible, and making a baseship with sublight maneuvering capability was simply the simplest solution I could come up with. Baseships still lack FTL, which can take up 10-15% of a vessels internal volume, so that is still a substantial amount of weigh saved by not including FTL capability.

      Dont get me wrong, often many powers may consider capturing a baseship to be more economical than destroying it, especially given that my setting uses less volatile power systems, my ships don't explode if something looks at them funny. In fact, ships and bases in my setting are nearly impossible to cause them to outright explode, and self destruct systems are typically not included, as there is no practical way to incorporate them.

  2. You could always have interceptors orbiting the station or even floating shielding. Constructing the space station out of asteroids is a good solution, and zero-gee CQC is always cool! Close quarters combat will be a subject of an upcoming blogpost
    Thanks for the read and the comments!

    1. Well, my setting is a far future setting 2500 years in the future. Weapons have grown powerful enough that asteroids are of not much help. Energy shielding, and another defensive technology I call a defense field are both defensive technologies used by vessels in my setting, in addition to armor plating as well. But I have found that keeping a space station safe from extreme bombardment, giving it STL engines is really the most reliable and least technobabble headache inducing solution I can come up with. Baseships still don't have FTL, which depending on the FTL engine design can take up 10-15% of a vessels internal volume, but they do have a sublight engine thet gives them some maneuvering ability. Plus in additon to ship mounted FTL, a lot of powers also make use of wormhole gates as well, and baseships can use those if they need too as long as they aren't too fat to fit through the gate.

      Drone interceptors, and combat drones in general are often used in my setting (I don't use manned fighters in my setting,just drones) , but they aren't good against everything. In particular, many battleship and battle cruiser designs are quite resistant to drone fighter attacks, so much so that employing drones against them results in an impractical amount of losses. I know this is vary much against the norm for most sci fi settings, as most asci fi's like to make the small corvette and frigate like ships really good at killing fighters while making battleships horrendously vulnerable, which doesnt even mirror real life either. But in my setting, its the smaller warships that are more vulnerable than the larger ones.


    2. There is of course the probability, from an engineering standpoint, that a Space-station/asteroid base/star-fort can have better reactors or generators since it doesn't need the power to weight, size, or fuel consumption restrictions of a spaceship; at least not to the same degree.

  3. Terran Trade Authority: Skybase

    Whenever I hear someone talk about space stations, my thoughts always turn to the Terran Trade Authority Skybase. Their simple design made them easy to kit out for a variety of missions. Their ease of construction means that they could be produced faster than the enemy could destroy them; much like the liberty ships of WW 2.

  4. I had never heard of the Terran Trade Authority! Thanks for information!

  5. When it came to Star Trek Star bases there seemed such a multitude it was at time impossible to figure but eventually I came to the conclusion that "Star base" is a loose term for any Starfleet Facility and that Starfleet had about 700 overall facilities, All had a number but only some used that number as the main name. I figured that planets with multiple facilities would then use individual names for specific facilities. Star base Earhart serving as housing for young Officers and possibly part of Starfleet Academy, How it is that some are numbered well others are named might be dependent on who named them. A human would likely give a location a name of some individual of stature or historical reference Montgomery for example. a Vulcan would likely be based on a more logical choice numerical order K class station number 7 Star base 515. Deep Space X could be based on a station that lacks ground based facilities and is run in loaned space.

  6. A interesting blog entry indeed Will, and once again thanks for providing idea seeds to help give additional depth to my own "hard" space opera setting. Especially since, in a certain eye, one can view military space/battle stations the same way one sees castles in medieval Europe. The only real difference, in the case of battle stations, is that are effectively fixed to their territory. Though considering the historical context, this is quite understandable even with wooden castles. Though if I recall correctly, the stone-build castles weren't all that common until the very late medieval era and, logically, would take decades to construct. Wooden castles, as far as I can logically figure, can be built far more rapidly and would make them offensive, invasion structures. I think I recall such a fact from some documentary about some English King who performed such a tactic against Welsh Barrons who were as much at war with him as with each other. There was also a note in which each castle was set upon a coast with a harbor to allow for ease of supply in case of seiges.

    Anyway, enough of my random ramblings. Onto the subject of Battle Stations, to which I'm not of the opinion that they need to be as big as either the Death Star or Boddole Zer/Dolza's Mobile Fortress. Not if you want the accursed thing to be strategically mobile. It'll probably be large to serve as a dry-cage for combat spacecraft to be serviced, resupplied, and whatnots. But when it comes to total mass, it may not need to be exponentially larger as what is seen in most visual media. They could simply be modular and compact enough to be folded against the fuselage to make it more, "stream lined" for lack of a better word, and simiply unfurl when it takes up a particular orbit around the target celestial body. It may not even need to service that many combat spacecraft at one time; a single squadron (or a flight if using air force terminologies) of combat spacecraft would be enough for standard military operations. It might even be individual spacecraft that travel together but dock with each other to form said battle station. Kinda like GoLion/Voltron, but not as interesting. If one wanted to the ability to service a large volume of combat spacecraft, probably best to go towards the Space Station/Orbital Fortress route ( http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/planetaryattack.php#id--Orbital_Fortress ) since it doesn't need to spare mass for Delta V range.

    Come to think of it, the Battle Station can arguably compared to a Forward Operating Base in contemporary times in terms of strategic utility and deployment. Interesting ideas to jump off from indeed.