Space ship comparisons

Earlier this year I wrote about a YouTube video showing the size of the Galaxy-class starship USS-Enterprise (registry NCC-1701-D, you know...the thing, as FakePresident Biden would say).

At the end of that post I made a snarky aside about the 2009 movie making their starship even more massive, and I thought about it a few days ago when I saw this video, comparing ships across franchises:

The thing about this piece that really caught my attention was how various franchises handled even the semblance of sense and realism. For that, you really have to look at where in the video most ships show up: I'm not talking about the (mostly) fighters that dominate the first part of the video, but rather the actual ship-ships that more or less show up after the Firefly-class transport (82.1m) from Firefly/Serenity ;should appear (but criminally doesn't): about the time the video shows the real-life space shuttle (56.1m). Say what you will about Interstellar but the Endurance appears  in this range. Ships from Avatar, Prometheus, and 2001: A Space Odyssey fall in this range. 

The next line features the original USS Enterprise, the Nostromo, and the Babylon 5 White Star in the 200-400m range. It finishes off with the Enterprise-D (642m) and those giant city-ships from Firefly that didn't appear in the movie and wait you included this but not the Serenity?? The ship from that Passengers movie where Chris Pratt does what every man ever does (tricks a woman into sex) but then gets yelled at for it, along with a Romulan D'deridex-class warbird, BattleStar Galactica, and the Imperial Star Destroyer are in the 1000-1600m long range. A variety of Mass Effect ships, Atlantis from StarGate, and Event Horizon fit into the roughly 2km range.

I think at this point we need to start accepting that spaceships should pretty much top out at this level. Remember the guy explaining how much space the Enterprise-D had? While some of these other ships can use the excuse that a lot of their size isn't "filled" (the ship from Passengers falls into this category) others certainly don't. The LDSS Nauvoo from The Expanse is a whopping 2.4km long, and it's a giant cylinder. This is handy, since the length (2460m) and width (960m) can be plugged into our well-known equation for the volume of a cylinder (πr2h), and when we remove about 100m to compensate for the engines and antenna that add to the length we get a volume of 1.71×109 cubic metres. That's insane, considering the Enterprise-D saucer alone is bigger than the Pentagon, and that the internal volume of that ship is 5,280,983m³. (So that's 5.281×107 cubic metres, making LDSS Nauvoo 3,208 times bigger).

The largest vessel in the Star Trek universe, the Borg cube, is the next ship in our list: it's roughly 3km...well...cubed. 2.7×107m3 of course, and really far more unwieldy than it needs to be. The only other bigger Trek structure is the Dyson Sphere, which critically not only wasn't literally what Dyson proposed (see here) but also wasn't intended to move. Other, less realistic franchises won't stop there though.

After the 3km (but only along one axis) doughtnut-ship from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and the Go'uld cruisers from StarGate, the ships will just keep on growing for no particular reason. We see ships from The Avengers, Wall-E, and Halo pop in for the 5km-range. The Leviathan from StarCraft and Red Dwarf finish off the under-10km club. 10km! You think everybody could call it a day from here and go home, right? Right? We're already now larger than the eponymous space station from Babylon 5 and as we noted before that also wasn't intended to travel around.

Nope. Lexx is also 10km long, and (starting a trend) the Eternal Crusader from Warhammer 40k bests it. We aren't getting much serious science fiction here anymore folks (Spaceball I pops in to prove my point) and we're not yet 8m into a 12m long video. It's going to get ugly. EVE Online's Avatar and Erebus seem to dwarf the Borg cube they sail over, passing yet another Warhammer 40k ship. The sphere-shaped Traveler from Destiny (1.4×1010m3) gives way to at least long only along a single-axis again to ships like Mass Effect's Mass Relay, Star Wars' Executor, and that long cylinder ship from Dune. The ships from the first Independence Day of course are in this range as well: especially cruel since they are literally designed to go in and out of planetary atmospheres which Executor doesn't. We're at 24km folks and it gets worse.

How about the Supremacy from the newest Star Wars trilogy at 60km? The Citadel from Mass Effect at 45km? The Tet from Oblivion? They show V'Ger from Star Trek The Motion Picture in here as well, but I think that size estimate (78km) is off. It's still abnormally large for its universe though. But the Keepstar from EVE Online (160km) and the Death Star (also 160km) make it look tiny at any scale. Seriously, folks: we're up to the Death Star. The insanely massive moon-sized travelling space station. It obviously has to be the top of this list. Who could come up with more twisted and less realistic scifi creations than George Lucas for crying out loud?

Answer: whoever made the Götterdämmerung from Iron Sky...it's 200km across. Hey did you know the second Death Star was slightly bigger? Of course it was. Halo's "High Charity" is 505km though and makes it look like a kid's toy (which, to be fair, it is). The Independence Day mothership fits in here too (remember: it made sand move on the moon) and Starkiller base is on here which is a bit of a misnomer since I'm pretty sure it's not a single structure and was just built on that planetoid. Another Destiny ship shows up, then Titan AE, and Destiny again with a ship called "Almighty" which is about 3400 kilometres long and moves. These are ships that wouldn't fit inside most countries. Destiny really takes the cake though with an even larger ship that is 3500km long and has a lot more internal space filled than the previous one. Numerous Death Stars could fit inside it. The harvester from the new Independence Day is huge compared to it though and it's getting ridiculous.

We had to invent special inertial dampeners and structural integrity forcefields just to make Star Trek ships manageable: the technology required to build, maintain, operate, and protect a vehicle of this size means any alien race capable of doing so isn't going to be beaten up because Will Smith is a good pilot.

I don't know what Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann even is, but its 5000km long battleship means I'm unlikely to enjoy it. Halo has a 127530km diameter "Installation 00" that, so we're clear, is significantly larger than the planet Earth. Literally the next thing the video shows us is the Sun, and we finish up with our Dyson Sphere and Ringworld, but those are relatively benign as discussed.

Why does Warhammer 40k seem to think you need spaceships larger than Belgium to carry troops?