Mobile Suit Gundam: High Frontier
Life In The Universal Century
In 1999,the Gundam saga marked its 20th anniversary with, among other things, a live-action and computer animation feature called G-Saviour.
Set in UC 0223, three generations (seventy years) after the events depicted in the V Gundam animated series and a generation (twenty years) after the events chronicled in Tomino’s Gaia Gear spinoff novel and radio drama, G-Saviour also introduced the first major overhaul of the O’Neill Cylinder design in all that time. These new space colonies were called “Settlements.” The process of modeling the O’Neill design for the computer animation apparently revealed a number of structural weaknesses, which were then corrected in the design of the Settlements.
First, and most noticeable, are the modifications to the mirrors.
One problem that has always plagued both the original O’Neill design and the Gundam “open type” adaptation is the apparent lack of any supporting infrastructure for the mirrors. They appear to be free standing, anchored only at the base and held out at the requisite 45° angle only by centripetal force.
In the O’Neill design, the mirrors sometimes appear to be anchored to the agricultural block ring, but that’s also problematic, since the ring isn’t supposed to rotate but the mirrors must. In the “open type” design, the ring is on the opposite end.
The Settlement design addresses this problem directly. The agricultural block ring is now gone, with farming done in untethered satellites or dedicated “rural” Settlements. In its place is a rigid support ring, to which the far ends of the mirrors are firmly anchored. The support ring, in turn, is anchored equally firmly by three rigid cables strung through the midpoints of the “ground” panels. This anchors both ends of each mirror and provides for tension between those endpoints to keep the mirrors rigid and flat. Just to make certain, there are, in the classic engineering tenet of triple redundancy, two more support rings spaced evenly between the first ring and the base, about ten kilometers (6.2 miles) apart. The rotation of the Settlement throws the mirrors outward and the cables hold them in.
The cables run completely through the “ground” panels into the interior, where they’re anchored to three more rigid support rings, each a kilometer (3,280 feet) in diameter, centered along the axis. This provides solid support without interfering with the axial zero-G cable car transportation system.
The tips of the mirrors are also bent inward at a 45° angle, parallel to both the cylinder hull and the incoming sunlight, which means they no longer reflect sunlight into the cylinder at that point. The additional mass serves as an anchoring “counterweight” for the far end of the mirror, maintaining tension and rigidity.
Another interesting modification is the (depending on your point of view) inboard recessing of the “sky” panels or the outboard extrusion of the “ground” panels. Either way, the inhabitants enjoy more shielding from Solar and cosmic radiation and greater depth of soil on which they can build and in which their flora may take root and their fauna may burrow. This can only make the environment more natural and less artificial.
The “sky” panels also curve around the Sunward end of the cylinder, letting in sunlight directly, without the need for reflecting mirrors. This implies the need for shutters working in unison with the mirrors to cut off the sunlight at “night” within the cylinder, it may not transmit sunlight into the cylinder proper at all.
Instead, it may simply allow all the solar power generation equipment to be brought inside, staged within the unused dome of the endcap, which would make maintenance a lot easier. On the other hand, the docking bay block on the Sunward end, a major feature of the original designs, appears to be gone, leaving only the industrial block on the opposite to perform double duty. Then again, if the solar power generators have been moved into the Sunward endcap, the docking bay may have been brought inboard as well.
In any case, the new design is cleaner, more aesthetic and clearly more practical. Will it be retrofitted onto subsequent Gundam series set earlier in the chronology? Only time will tell.
Computer modeling the Settlements resulted in one final innovation that’s not readily apparent to the audience. The individual cylinders are now aligned in a geodesic array of equilateral triangles, 200 kilometers (125 miles) on a side. The actual separation between cylinders within this array is about 160 kilometers (100 miles), double the distance originally envisioned by O’Neill for his ballistically-coupled cylinder pairs. The pristine orderliness of this array must be much easier to animate within the computer, but it also has the effect of subtly reflecting the rigidity of the current regime, the Congress of Settlement Nations (ironically abbreviated as CONSENT), against which the individualistic Illuminati contend in the name of freedom and the flexibility that goes with it.
Last Update: 01 January 2017
Copyright © 1999–2017 by Dafydd Neal Dyar