www.sponsorastarship.com - Spaceship Design and Mission Technology Innovations


SpringStar -
Thunderbird 3: Taking inspiration from science fiction to create a scientific fact.

Michael Bond, copyright, 2008

[Keys: Springship, SpringStar, Thunderbird3, Spacecraft Design, Spaceship, Rocketship Design]


I've already discussed the concept for Springships and Springworld as a way to simulate gravity in space for deep space craft and deep space colonisation.  Now I want to turn to how science fiction can inspire additional thoughts on designing a, kind of, practical spacecraft.

As one of my long distant childhood inspirations has always been the TV show Thunderbirds (NOT the more recent movie version, definitely NOT) I've been looking at the Thunderbird designs to see if practical realistic versions of their concepts are possible.

A SpringStar Ship - Thunderbird 3

Although it doesn't seem practical at first glance the general outline design for the TV show's Thunderbird 3 may actually, albeit inadvertently, show a number of features that can be turned into a practical spacecraft design.

Of course the original designers were not thinking about the practicality of a craft's design, merely that it looked pretty and made practical sense for their production, but with a little imagination some of its features can be reshaped into something that I believe will work.

Loading The Crew

The limitations of a children's puppet show forced the producers into a series of designs to compensate for the immobility of their characters, and anyone remembering the ascending sofa of Thunderbird 3 will know how that problem was solved; but from a practical sense of spacecraft design they may have hit on a very interesting and useful alternative to the more traditional rocketship design.

Of course T3 is just another 1940s/50s inspired rocketship, first demonstrated by the German V2 rocket weapons that attacked London in the latter years of World War Two.

In all rocketship designs, also in the American spacecraft of the 1950s/60, through to the Apollo moon mission Saturn Five rockets, the crew are packed in a tiny capsule on top of several hundred tons of explosive fuel.

I'm sure the future will provide safe fuel and engines, and this leads to an interesting opportunity - pack the crew into the bottom of the ship, not at the top.

In T3 the crew enter by a lift rising through the base.  If I remember rightly (it's been a very long time since I watched a Thunderbirds episode) they are then taken through the heart of the ship to the top, but why?  Why not stop at the bottom and keep the top of the ship for all its fuel and freight - above the crew compartment?

Internal habitat for a SpringStar rocketship inspired by Thunderbird 3 from the British children's television series Thunderbirds.Such a design (see illustration, click the picture) offers several advantages, including: (1) the ability to reach the ground more quickly when landed; (2) saving the cost and complexity of running an access tube through the heart of the ship, or a lift/ladder from the top; and, (3) providing a simple, efficient, convenient way to dock with another ship or station.

Spinning The Ship

The original design for T3 shows a fatter section at the base of the hull and its three engines mounted on rocketship-style wings.

Placing the engines away from the hull removes any immediate danger to the crew compartment from them, and allows the engines to mount side thrusters to spin the ship.

A fatter base segment give you enough room for small internal ring corridors to form decks when the ship is spun on its axis during flight.  This created the spinning "spring" artificial gravity.  Such a fat segment could not realistically be placed at the top of a rocketship design - giving you another practical reason for accommodation to be placed in the base.

Once launched into space the ship spins and remains spinning throughout its journey, giving the crew the added comfort of a small amount of spin-gravity.

Spinning At Port

Docking a SpringStar rocketships inspired by Thunderbird 3 from the British children's television series.The other advantage of spinning the ship along its axis and placing the habitat at the base is its ability to keep spinning while docking with a suitable space station (e.g., Thunderbird 5). 

Here the ship reverses into a docking location on the axis of a spinning station, making use of its access point where the crew entered on the ground before launch (see illustration).

The practical advantage is that neither the ship nor the station need to make any serious adjustments to spin or other motions when this docking occurs - there is no need to change spin, no need to alter the station for any added weight, no need to add complex machinery to attach the ship to any other location, such as along the side of the station.

This is the simplest possible position and method of docking two spinning vessels, whether they are two ships or a ship onto a station.

Shielding The Crew

The dangers of radiation and micrometeorites are reduced with a SpringStar over a conventional rocketship. 

The bulk of the ship's fuel and forward hull act both as radiation shield if it's pointed at the Sun or as a meteorite shield if pointed along the line of flight.

The engines and wings also acts as shields around the sides of the habitat, the hull of the habitat will be doubly thick as shielding from both radiation and physical penetration, and any possible dangers posed by the proximity of the engines.

The base of the hull also has to be thick enough to prevent backblast from the engines or any dust, dirt, rocks thrown up by the engines, and this acts as another shielding for the crew compartment directly above.


Although many science fiction ideas from literature, film or television don't make the slightest practical or scientific sense, it is possible to adapt those ideas with a strong engineering sensibility into a realistic and very functional product.

Science fiction remains a good inspiration and exploration of ideas, leading to those which can be discarded or those which can become the future of their technologies.

Such craft as those in Thunderbirds don't seem on first sight to be realistically practical, but they make a good challenge for the imagination to see what could be done, to turn them into reality, or devise something entirely different.

I began this exercise because of my interest in film and TV production and the challenge of creating a more professional and realistic Thunderbirds film or TV series.  Thunderbird 3 showed how the mergence of my own ideas for deep space springship exploration vessels can be used to create a fictional idea that makes more sense than those normally thrown up by film or TV designers.

As for revisions of the other Thunderbird craft, they're standing by....

No Money to Sponsor? No problem - Link Me!

The super-duper Starship Link Programme means that YOU CAN STILL HELP today!

If you have a web site copy the animated logo below (right-click over the image and choose "Save Image As..") and add it to a suitable place on your site and link it back here.  Every one of your visitors will appreciate your vision and support.

Click to visit Sponsor-A-StarshipIf you have any problems just consult the link on the left, view the source code and see how it ought to look.



MAILING LIST: Join the mailing list today and receive occasional news on progress:-
Forename -
Surname -
Your e-mail -
TELL A FRIEND: Do you like this site? Use this convenient form to tell a friend all about it!
Tell a Friend:

Best Browser Suite - SeaMonkey

Web suite (e-mail and web browser Mozilla/Netscape suite descendent).
This web site has been designed to be as compliant as possible to current web design standards and is best viewed with SeaMonkey, Firefox or a comparable web browser (NOT Internet Explorer).

Best Browser - Firefox

This web site has been designed to be as compliant as possible to current web design standards and is best viewed with SeaMonkey, Firefox or a comparable web browser (NOT Internet Explorer).

Copyright Notice 2002+

Everything contained within this web site, associated documents and other related materials, current and future, are the sole and exclusive copyright of the writer.