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An artificial structure in space, where people live and work. Unlike the Cool Starship, the Space Station is usually fixed in orbit around a planet or at a particular point in space. It also allows for the construction of a standing studio set and avoids expensive location shoots.
Real-world space stations have existed since 1971 (Salyut 1) and 3 of them, the incomplete but still functional International Space Station, and Genesis I & II, both unmanned, are currently in orbit. These are all much smaller than what one is used to in sci-fi shows. The list for the interested can be seen below.
Space stations in fiction have a tendency to be very large, sometimes housing an entire city. Many have adopted a wheel design for a centrifuge-based system of gravity (unless Artificial Gravity is employed), but this is not obligatory. If sufficiently large to support a sizeable permanent population, a space-station may be referred to as an "orbital habitat" or "space colony". Don't drop it! The problem of gas exchange and food production is often solved by incorporating a closed ecosystem and green plants onboard, sometimes in dirt, sometimes hydroponics, sometimes algae aquaculture.
Fictional examples :
- Very large space-stations are integral to the background of the Gundam anime universe(s). The designs are lifted almost verbatim from O'Neill's The High Frontier, which was new when the first Gundam series was in development.
- The Justice League have the Watchtower and its larger, improved successor, Watchtower II. Its position in orbit with a giant laser cannon pointing down become a point of contention with the US government.
- And for many years before the Watchtower, the JLA had an orbiting satellite space station, through the 70s and part of the 80s (until the "Detroit League" era and the Crisis finished it off).
- The wheel-like Station Five seen in the opening space scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps the most famous of all sci-fi movie space stations.
- The Death Star is a cross between a space station and a starship because it can travel between star systems under its own power, but is huge (and round) enough to be mistaken for a moon. The EU is absolutely in love with space stations, using them for everything from shipyards and defense platforms to casinos. A great many of them end up in little bitty pieces by the end of whatever work they appear in...
- Project Moonbase (1953) had the protagonists stop off at a US military space station on the way to the moon. We see people walking along the corridors upside down past people going the other way due to its variable Artificial Gravity.
- Conquest of Space (George Pal's 1955 sci-fi flop after his previous blockbusters Destination Moon and When Worlds Collide) had The Wheel, whose design was taken from the famous illustrated book of that name.
- The space station over Solaris in Solaris is large, but falling apart due to madness and disuse.
- Disney's Treasure Planet featured a space station shaped like a crescent moon.
- Disney Channel "Zenon" movies, a lot of the action is based in Space Stations.
- In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, there are gigantic space stations for growing food.
- Most of the action of Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold takes place on Kline Station. A significant portion of the action of both The Vor Game and Komarr take place on stations (in the Hegen Hub and near the wormhole connecting Barrayar and Komarr respectively).
- The Battle School in Ender's Game definitely fits. The gravity was said to be provided by rotation, leaving the hub in the middle with no gravity, allowing them to have their battles in weightlessness. However in Ender's Shadow it's revealed that they actually have gravity-manipulation technology that they reverse engineered from the "dead" Bugger ships in the second Bugger War.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has something called Centerpoint Station, a station larger than the Death Star which is at the midpoint between two worlds that revolve around each other in the Corellian system. No one knows who built it or how. The Corellian Trilogy involved it, a place inside it called Hollowtown, and the fact that a superweapon was built into it, with the ability to destroy distant stars.
- It came back briefly in the New Jedi Order, when someone tried to use it to fire at Vong worldships but missed and hit some allies. And then they refused to use it again.
- A considerable part of Legacy of the Force is about the Corellians, trying to secede from the Galactic Federation of Free Worlds, commanding Centerpoint Station, which was destroyed eventually.
- The 1950's sci-fi juvenile Islands in the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke is about a teenager who wins a trip to the Inner Station, a manned satellite in low-earth orbit used for repairing and refueling spacecraft. Clarke was famous for predicting the use of artifical satellites for telecommunication (though his were manned).
- Several space stations are featured in Honor Harrington. The one that gets focused upon most often is HMSS Hephaestus, a massive space station that is also the primary dockyard for the Royal Manticoran Navy.
- Most of the third book, The Short Victorious War, centers around Hancock Station, and the defense of it during the opening hours of the First Haven-Manticore War.
- Mission of Honor depicts the destruction of all of the major space stations in the Manticore system, with a death toll in the millions, including civilians.
- In addition to the major space stations used in various places, there are also numerous Space Forts used to guard wormhole junctions, and smaller defensive platforms in orbit over major planets.
- Willy Ley wrote several books aimed at children describing and illustrating space stations, competely with tug vessels to help large space ships dock.
- The semi-fiction futurist writings of Gerard O'Neill from the seventies and eighties, especially The High Frontier. All the technologies outlined in the books are based on theory and designs from real academics. O'Neill is often credited for inventing these types of designs; he did not. However, he did move a lot of them quite far along Mohs Scale of Sci Fi Hardness.
- The Star Trek: Stargazer novels introduce the Oblivion, or rather the Obl'viaan in the original Ubarrak. It's an enormous construction in orbit of a lifeless planet, consisting of hundreds (if not thousands) of ships and stations welded together. In fact, it's not so much a space station as a space city. It is definitely of a Wretched Hive variety. It's also the place where Picard first meets Guinan, although she's a little upset he doesn't know who she is.
- Part of Sergey Lukyanenko's novel Competitors takes place on a large, disc-shaped station called the Platform or Bun. Nobody knows for sure who built the station (it was the Bugs), but ordinary people keep getting sent there and are given enough funds to purchase a small ship and start their career in space. Occasionally, the Platform undergoes attacks by a race known only as the Bugs. No matter their clan affiliation or criminal status, all gather to defend the station.
- Babylon 5 takes place on an O'Neill Cylinder.
- Various fluff even call all Babylon stations O'Neill-class.
- The other human stations are wheel-shaped. Centauri stations look like two pyramids attached at the base.
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine
- The Satellite of Love
- Blakes Seven's Terran Federation has a giant ring-shaped space station as the headquarters of their evil version of Starfleet.
- Destination Space (1959). Pilot for a TV series that was never taken up. Involved a space station damaged by a meteorite and efforts to send a rescue mission.
- Earth II (1971). Another pilot for a never-filmed TV series about life on a large space station. The cast was led by Gary Lockwood of 2001 fame. The plot involved efforts to stop a nuclear weapon launched by the Chinese from reaching the station.
- Ingrid's space colony in Starstuff.
- Thunderbird 5, used to monitor all the world's emergency communications. At the time, I guess no one thought an unmanned satellite could do the job. Operated by a single person, almost always Gerry Anderson's Unfavorite, John Tracy.
- Stargate showed a few space stations, including the ISS. The only Goa'uld space station shown was in the Hasara system and used as a meeting place for the System Lords. It was later destroyed by the Replicators.
- Kamen Rider Fourze has the M-BUS, the headquarters for the Anti Zodiarts Union. It fires a beam of Cosmic Energy that enables Kamen Rider Meteor to transform.
- Many space stations of various shapes and sizes are shown in Andromeda. The largest one is the Arcology, a massive space habitat filled with Technical Pacifists. The Arcology does have a slipdrive, although it's ancient (almost Steampunk-like) and non-functional.
- Most Starports in Traveller have an orbital component to deal with heavier traffic and a component planetside. Aside from that there are research stations, minor outposts and the like and occasionally if the jump range is to far a space station will be built in intersteller space to allow transit.
- Space Station 13. Obviously.
- Stations are one of the types of constructs that players can design and build in Star Ruler. They can carry massive defensive weapons, function as a trading hub, orbital refinery, a dry dock, or any combination of the above. Typically placed in orbit around planets, but it's possible to tow them to a new position using a massive carrier, or by yanking it out of orbit with a tractor beam.
- Building them is a major part of playing Sins of a Solar Empire, and they all have different specialized functions.
- The first Expansion Pack adds starbases, which can be built anywhere, not just in orbit of your planets. The Vasari starbases can even move around the area but lack phase drives. The starbases can be customized through modules, which can turn them into fortresses, trade hubs, or hangars for huge waves of fighters.
- The first two acts of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords take place on two different space stations. Peragus was an asteroid facility, so it may or may not count. The Star Forge from the first game, however, definitely does.
- The orbiting space station in Cortex Command, called a "Trade Star", plays a central part in the action. From this orbiting station, units and objects come down in drop ships, and units, objects, and gold goes back up. So far, it apparently has no weapons whatsoever that can affect the ground battle.
- Mass Effect features two Space Stations as important plot locations. The Citadel is the seat of the Galactic government and generally has an Ascetic Aesthetic, Star Trek look (until you get to the Wards) while Omega is a Wretched Hive with Cyberpunk Used Future themes. A number of less important stations crop up in sidequests.
- Omega is an asteroid base, though, so it may not count.
- Shepard is revived on a space station belonging to Cerberus. It's also implied that the Illusive Man's HQ is a space station.
- Illusive Man's space station is stated to move from system to system in order to keep its location hidden. Only high-ranking operatives are allowed to visit it, and are usually told by the Illusive Man himself where it currently is.
- The Heretic geth base of operations is a large space station in the middle of nowhere.
- The True geth build a massive space station in orbit of Rannoch (quarian homeworld) to serve as a giant server to house all geth programs. When the quarians attack in the third game, one of their first targets is the space station. Many programs are destroyed in the process.
- The fleets of the Systems Alliance (human government) are headquartered on the Arcturus space station. Unfortunately, it's one of the first targets of the Reapers in Mass Effect 3. All you find is the debris field.
- Comet Observatory from Super Mario Galaxy.
- The GDSS Philadelphia from the Command and Conquer Tiberium series is GDI's heavily defended orbiting command center, from which they run all of their operations of Earth. Until Kane nuked it, that is.
- The game Startopia is revolved around restoring abandoned spinning wheel-shaped stations. Strangely enough, all space stations in the galaxy appear to have the exact same design. The stations have 3 decks: engineering, pleasure, and bio. Biodeck is the innermost one and uses "nanosoil" to recreate any planetary environment to the point where you can actually grow plants in it. The pleasure deck is all for the entertainment of tourists and employees. The engineering deck (outermost) includes power stations, factories, docks, security stations, communicators, sick bays, sleeping pods, bathrooms, etc.
- Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force has several space stations, including the Forge and one made up of various ships trapped there welded together. One of the ships making up the latter is a Constitution-class starship from the Mirror Universe. Fans of TOS get a nostalgia fix walking through the halls of the ship, albeit with the Terran Empire logo on all doors.
- Two types of stations can be built in Haegemonia: Legions of Iron. Both types can move prior to deploying, at which point they are unable to be "undeployed", although the Expansion Pack fixed that. Mining bases are unarmed and position themselves over resource-rich asteroids in order to process them. Military bases can be built of different types, depending on the type of weapons you want them to have (missile, proton, ion, quantum). They cannot use weapons when mobile. They also repair friendly ships in the vicinity. The campaign also has resort and hospital stations, as well as the Darzok HQ, which must be destroyed to win the game. You also find abandoned Solon stations with active defenses.
- You spend the majority of The Perils of Akumos aboard one. This leads to some rather odd geometry.
- Sword of the Stars has orbital defense satellites (it's not clear if they're automated or manned) of various sizes with expansions adding large specialized space stations (e.g. command, industry, science, trade, habitat, sensor). In the sequel, you can also build hidden defense bases in asteroid fields in order to launch system defense boats at unsuspecting invaders.
- Several space stations are shown throughout the Space Quest series. Galaxy Galleria is a large circular mall in space with a zero-gravity area in the center. The StarCon Academy is located aboard a large space station. There's also Molly's Chug & Glug SpaceBar, which you end up destroying, Monolith Burger Fast Food Dive, Shar-Pei's station, Xenon Orbital Station 4, Vohaul's Asteroid of Doom, etc.
- The final levels of the Mega Man (except III and IV, although the latter was actually a battleship) Game Boy series take place on Space Stations; the one used in V looks like it was even based on the Death Star. And then, in Mega Man 10, Wily builds another station that was just an extension of his castle. This one was notorious for the lengthy tracking screen on the map.
- There are two very important space stations in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe: the orbital headquarters of the Global Guardians itself, and the Stronghold Orbital Super-Maximum Detention Center.
- These are implied to exist in the universe of Nexus Gate though none have been officially named.
Real Life Examples :
- There were two different designs of the Salyut series- the DOS and OPS (Almaz) designs. The Almaz stations were experiments into military applications of space stations, and secretly carried antiarcraft guns (suitably modified for space).
- Salyut 1/DOS-1 (1971): Only two crews went up to this. The first (Soyuz 10) couldn't open the door. The second (Soyuz 11) got on board and spent 23 days there, but died during reentry when a malfunctioning valve caused their capsule to depressurise.
- Salyut 2/OPS-1 (1973): An Almaz station. Depressurised on launch after being hit by debris from the Proton launcher, followed by an unknown explosion that destroyed the solar panels less than two weeks after reaching orbit. No attempts to visit.
- Salyut 3/OPS-2 (1974-5): Only had one crew visit. The only Almaz mission to actually do anything military related, it shot off its gun and destroyed a couple of satellites.
- Salyut 4/DOS-4 (1974-77): Twin to the failed and disowned (from the Salyut program) Kosmos 557/DOS-3. Mounted one solar telescope and two x-ray telescopes, used for deep-space observation.
- Salyut 5/OPS-3 (1976-77): The last Almaz station. First crew forced to return early after psychological problems surfaced in the crew. Second crew failed to dock, and third crew conducted scientific studies.
- Salyut 6/DOS-5 (1977-82): First of the second-generation stations, and the first to mount two docking ports to allow resupply while a crew was already aboard. Also demonstrated the viability of in-situ modular station construction when the automated TKS logistics module was successfully docked by remote after the last crew departed, paving the way for Mir and the ISS.
- Salyut 7/DOS-6 (1982-91): Originally the back-up module in case Salyut 6 failed, refurbished and launched due to delays in Mir. System failure led to the batteries failing to charge between crews, forcing an on-site repair after manual docking. Served as a testbed and experimental platform for several Mir technologies.
- Mir (1986-2001): "Peace". This included a core module (DOS-7) that could take four other modules on one end, with another (Kvant) attached on the other end. Later became capable of having the Space Shuttle dock through the use of a universal adapter. One of those modules, Spektr, was rendered unusable after a crew member, attempting to remotely dock an unmanned cargo craft, instead crashed into it, nearly killing everyone on board. First permanently manned station.
- Polyus (1987): A planned Almaz station, carrying a CO2 laser designed for anti-satellite warfare. Launched upside down due to space restrictions in the Energia, the intention was to yaw the station 180 degrees before firing rockets to place it in permanent orbit, but a failure in the inertial guidance system caused the maneuvering jets to rotate the craft 360 degrees, sending it careening into the atmosphere over the South Pacific.
- Manned Orbital Laboratory (1963-1969) A proposed all-military station that was essentially to be a manned spy satellite. Test vehicles were launched and astronauts were trained, but the project was cancelled due to cost overruns and the fact that unmanned satellites had become cheaper and more reliable. Several of the MOL astronauts transferred to the NASA astronaut program and flew in the Space Shuttle.
- Skylab (1973-79): NASA's only self-launched and operated space station, operated from 1973-1974. During its launch one of its main solar wings and the main sunshade was torn off, and the second wing was jammed against the side of the hull by a metal strap, resulting in a loss of power and dangerously high internal temperatures. The first crew sent there was able to release the remaining wing and erect a sunshade that brought temperatures back to survivable levels. Plans were floated to bring Skylab back into functional status for several years, but NASA was ultimately convinced that the Shuttle would not be operational in time to return to Skylab before its orbit decayed too far to recover. Deorbited in 1979, it was replaced by the Spacelab attachment for the Shuttle Orbiter. Debris from the station landed in the Shire of Esperance, Australia, which responded by issuing a $400 fine for littering to the US government.
- Tiangong 1 (2011-present): Recently launched by China, it is a testbed for the Chinese space program to develop their docking and rendezvous capabilities. The station is scheduled to be visited by two manned missions in 2012, and more elaborate stations (Tiangong 2 and 3) are scheduled to be launched in 2013 and 2015.
- ISS (1998-present): Biggest one yet built and not yet finished. Core consists of components from the planned Russian station Mir-2 (Zarya FGB and Zvezda Service Module) and American station Freedom (Integrated Truss Structure).
- Bigelow Aerospace
- Genesis series. These stations are based on NASA's TransHab design for an inflatable space station or moonbase (you heard me right). Thus far, they have been crewed by no organism more complex than a cockroach.
- Genesis I (2006-present)
- Genesis II (2007-present)