A space station is a spacecraft lacking propulsion or landing systems. Its scope is not spaceflight but the life support of sentient beings for an extended period of time.
The very first space stations built in the galaxy were not personal dwellings or space colonies, rather they were laboratories to carry out researches not possible under a planet's gravity force.
With the advancements in technology and the explorations in deep space, sentient beings started to build outposts in space in order to have reference points and places where to dock their ships and carry out maintenance duties.
Today many different types of space stations exist, and they can be divided as follows:
- space colonies (Space Colony I, Space Colony II, Luxury Space Colony, Asteroid Hideout, Merchant Space Dock);
- shipyards (Shipyard I to IV);
- trading stations (Trading I, Trading II, Centrepoint Station);
- research and development platforms (R&D I to IV);
- medical stations (Hospital Platform XQ-2);
- military stations (Ataturk-class Station, Golan I, Golan II, Platform XQ1);
- recycling stations (Recycling I to IV);
- industrial production (Medical Factory Station, X7 Factory Station);
- cultural stations (Academies, Galactic Museum);
- entertainment and casinos (Hook Central, The Wheel).
Some people like making a distinction between a space station and a space colony. For them, a space station isn't a place to live, but rather a place to work.
Living inside a space colony is similar in many ways to living on a habitable planet. People have houses or apartments, they go to work or to school, or also to concerts and movies. Such stations are equipped with shops, sports facilities, and any other infrastructure needed to carry a fulfilling life.
It is very common for space colonies to rotate because this produces pseudo-gravity. Also, the air and water is recycled and constantly monitored to maintain good life support.
The very first attempts made by sentient beings were to create laboratories and work camps outside of the gravity field of their planets. Research and Development stations were instrumental in scientific breakthroughs and the subsequent colonization of space.
By placing a lab in space, researchers can perform sensitive experiments that warrant a zero-gravity environment, or conditions free of a planet's local magnetic field. Although this station is designed with zero-gravity labs, it also facilitates a broad spectrum of other research environments. Such large, multipurpose installations help reduce construction costs of research facilities; building in space reduces the amount of planet-side real estate required, and the investment can often be shared amongst many cooperative factions or governments - an advantage that, due to government interests, is usually impossible with planet-side facilities. Construction in space also creates a more secure perimeter and security profile, as the station can only be reached via space-worthy transports.
The current types of R&D stations differ mainly in size, lab modules, cargo capacity, defensive installations, and technological level of instruments.
Since the advent of space travel and artificial gravity, starship construction moved rapidly from production within ground based facilities into orbital shipyards. These stations have expanded in the milennia since, creating massive sprawls, even orbital rings over some worlds such as Kuat. However, the need for smaller production centers for both companies and family shipwrights continues to drive the need for smaller, more precise, machinery to create both light freighters and many fighters. This has given birth to small shipyards (the type I model) up to gigantic stations as the type IV, where a ship of virtually any size can be produced.
The advantage inherent to space-based trading stations has been obvious from the furthest reaches of history. Because of the savings in time and fuel, when compared with landing and launching from a planet's surface, ship captains have always preferred to trade with merchants in orbit. One of the oldest and most common station designs for orbital commerce is known simply as the Trading I, or T1.
Typically, several Trading I stations in combination with a few of their larger cousins, the Trading II station, are enough to accommodate most systems. When a Trading I station is found by itself it is usually as an out of the way meeting point. Small and relatively inexpensive single copies of this station are often constructed in deep space and used as rendezvous points for pirates and smugglers, allowing them to exchange goods and services well outside the reach of the law.
In some areas traffic is just too heavy for standard trading platforms, and then a larger model - the Trading II or T2 - is often used, and the huge numbers of ships coming through can equate to a much larger flow of credits through these stations. But with increased traffic comes increased risks of attack, and designers used the opportunity to add many additional armaments to the design, helping to enforce peaceful conduct in commercial systems, and several tractor beams to catch the occasional pilot who feels he can run without paying his bill.
Reportedly, the first objectives of medical stations were to research and assess the effects of long-duration spaceflight on organic systems. Secondary aims were to develop and verify strategies to ensure optimal crew performance, and to enable development and validation of an integrated suite of physical, pharmacologic, and nutritional countermeasures to protect the health and performance of crewmembers.
With the development of space travels and space battles, the modern hospital platforms are conceived to provide highly-specialised medical assistance in space. One of their requirements is the speed at which large and small starships can dock with the station. Docking bays are designed to allow a quick access to treatment facilities. These stations have served as a lifeline for troops, being placed near battlefields to service groups of medical frigates bringing in the wounded.
The ongoing industrialization of the galaxy has left clouds of debris, abandoned space stations, and piles of damaged starships. Governments and companies operating in these environments eventually resorted to recycling as an alternative to simply dumping the vast amount of waste being generated or abandoning useless entities. Recycling was seen as a means to reclaim at least some materials for use in future projects, however, the surface-based recycling process often released toxic by-products harmful to most species. As such, many systems moved the recycling process to space, allowing noxious fumes to be released harmlessly into the void. The Recycling I station, the first of its kind, was created exclusively for this process and is still widely used by smaller companies or as a local junk repository.
To say that life on an industrial station is rough would be an understatement. Compact living space, no medical bays, and industrial machinery tend to cause issues. Despite the risks and relatively small size of the station, the Recycling I is adequate for its task.
The several types of recycling stations differ mainly in their capacity to deal with larger ships and waste disposal systems. The type IV offers also a boost to living conditions with the inclusion of habitation domes, with services and amenities comparable to those found on self-sustaining space colonies. These domes not only offer spacious accommodation for workers and family, but also luxurious executive suites located below the command deck.
Industrial Production Stations
At more than four times the size of a typical, planet-bound factory, the X7 Factory Station provides some distinct advantages to offset the additional cost and danger of creating such a facility in space. When operating under its maximum crew level it can produce ships at a rate often alarming to enemy forces.
The X7 has four docking bays which have the space and equipment necessary for producing freighters and fighters. However, its power plant is only capable of outputting sufficient power for production in one bay at a time. While inactive, the other bays are used largely for storage of both raw materials and manufactured ships, which is of great value to many operators. Likewise, the X7's docking port allows for the convenient exchange of materials and ships to and from its holds with a capital-class supply ship.
The medical factory station is different from the medical research stations or regular factories: these stations are designed for the sole purpose of creating the different medical necessities. With this purpose in mind, the medical factory station were built with cleanliness, efficiency, and practical perfection at the top of the priorities list. If these were ignored when being designed, then producers would run the risk of producing contaminated materials and tools that would infect millions across the universe. As an example of just how important this is, the designers built many rooms to disinfect and clean not only the employees manning the machinery and working within the assembly lines, but the materials and parts as well. Keeping the tools sterile is important too and the station designers incorporated various methods of doing so as station features.
Initially, military installations were mostly intended as a secure space station designed for deep space usage and easy docking. The first attempt was the XQ1 station with a cramped command tower and large cargo space that has a small docking bay for a few defensive fighters. Its powerful scanners allow it to detect incoming craft before they reach the station and so functions well as an early warning post. It can dock with cruisers to transfer personnel on board them before battle and can defend itself against anything smaller than an escort carrier. It has a strong shield and can hold up to 300 personnel used to relieve patrol ship crews and maintain border integrity.
Later, the Ataturk model was developed. It is mainly used as a system border outpost and refueling station. Being equipped with long-range sensors to detect enemies before they come into range of the station it is also good as an advanced warning post.
Along with its standard fighter complement it can defend system borders easily and alert main defense fleets before any enemy can incur too far into occupied territory. It also has tractor beams that can provide docking assistance as well as capture intruders.
The military needs drew towards other types of stations, and the Golan I, also commonly known as the Golan Space Defense Gun, was principally used to defend key planets, outposts, shipyards and hyperspace routes from intruders.
One of the main critical flaws and complaints with the Golan I's design is the placement of the shield generator, which is located at the base of the spike enclosing the sensor array. The unguarded perimeter of this component on the station has proven to be a detrimental weak point that can be exploited by clever enemy commanders. Significantly, the destruction of the shield generator renders the competent telemetry of the station’s weaponry system useless. Indeed, this was the main reason which fueled the necessary innovation for designers to produce even larger and more powerful war-based stations. Despite its shortcomings and subsequent improved models, the Golan I was the foundation stone of a new technological revolution and is still regarded as a priceless platform.
Subsequently, the Golan II was designed to solve the critical aspects of the Golan I. Actually, the Golan II can defend far more valuable targets, including transports, construction shipyards and trading stations. In particular, it was station's sturdiness during battle led to its rapid rise in popularity and the continued frequency of its appearance across the galaxy. Renowned as a priceless tool in unyielding and tense situations, the Golan II remains preferential to many fleets and it would take the combined efforts of several squadrons of fighters and several freighters to neutralize a single Golan II.
Furthermore, the Golan II marks a substantial enhancement in size over its predecessor, approximately seventy-five percent more. The Golan II can sustain almost twice as many passengers as the Golan I, with long residential compartments situated on the upper level of the ship. Whilst this includes common areas with dining halls and entertainment quarters, the lower deck is occupied by storage bays and power systems. The isolation allows structural organisation of daily functions and a comfortable setting for long periods of time spent in space.
Even with the innovative improvements of this station by Golan Industries, the Golan II has been judged by many to be incapable of countering the threat of larger ships, such as Star Destroyers, and thus inadequate for high-traffic zones. Rumors that its successor, a Golan III model, is under development are rampant. Despite its inadequacies, the Golan II space station is a large improvement over the previous design, and certainly a practical and worthwhile addition to any defense system.
It is not uncommon that commercial companies or governments decide to create educational institutions in space.
A nonexhaustive list of these space stations is as follows:
Dbari Academy (Dbari), Geist Klerus Academy (Anzat), New Republic Academy (Tyrius), Royal Arkanian Academy (Arbran), SoroSuub Academy (Bpfassh).
Entertainment and Casinos
Space stations have been used also as check points for galactic races, leisure places for luxurious vacations, or gambling.
Casinos in deep space offer the advantage of being free from the regulations of any government.
The Clock the Roids Grand Prix listed seven space stations in its circuit.
Noteworthy Space Stations
Two of the most ancient stations in the galaxy are stations that are no more. The Space Station Libra was destroyed during the Battle of Beta, while one is now a frozen moon, or at least this is what traditional lore says.
The R&D Station Daedalus in Republica system is very old and takes its name because it is quite difficult to move inside.
The galaxy offers other unique stations that are currently spinning in space. From the mysterious Maw Research Installation to the cultural and entertainment stations of the Galactic Museum and The Wheel.