A couple of years ago, I created a graphic titled “The ships of the fleet to intrinsic scale.” It was partly research (early in Poseidon, Maggie and Abigail spend a day on a Valkyrie-type), but it was mostly just sheer nerdy fun. The idea was to take the three types of battlestar seen in the show and scale them correctly based on the one element common to all three: The viper-tubes must all be the same size. I’ve been very gratified to see that image go viral.
Regardless of any published “official” dimensions, we can know something for sure: Because the Colonial Fleet was a continuing body throughout the production-run of various types of Viper, the Valkyrie, Pegasus, and Galactica all launched Vipers with the essentially same dimensions. Their launch-tubes must therefore all be essentially the same size. And so, if we scale images of the ships such that the tubes are the same sizes, we know that the ships are scaled correctly relative to one another.
But there was a ship missing from my comparison. Rather a famous ship, actually: The TOS battlestar. And the graphic said nothing at all about the actual sizes of the ships. It’s time to remedy both those shortcomings.
I recently came across and got to thinking about a graphic that shows the internal arrangements of the TOS battlestar’s flight-pods. Cross-referencing that with images of the original studio model and Lee Stringer’s recreation (here, here, and here), I think it’s reasonable to say that the launch tubes on the TOS battlestar are about two-thirds the height of the “trench” running down the outboard of the flight-pod, or roughly the same height as the flight-pod’s prow at its narrowest. The TOS Vipers, I think we can all agree, are essentially the same size as the RDM vipers. (Objections that they are technically a few inches off make no odds.)
I haven’t been able to find high-resolution elevation shots of the filming miniature (if you have them, I’d love to get them, please, and will update the post), but there’s a popular fan-made image that does the rounds that’s close enough for our purposes. So in the image at top, the TOS battlestar is shown at approximately the correct scale compared to the RDM ships, not based on any “official” published dimensions but based on something intrinsic and in-universe: Uniform size of a detail common to all four ships, viz. the launch-tubes.
I realize that some TOS fans may object. To be clear: I do not mean to degrade or take anything away from the TOS battlestar by correcting its dimensions. And I emphasize that this is only roughly right until we can get a high-res elevation of the filming model. But I stand by the methodology, and I think the execution is correct within a reasonable degree of accuracy.
But the question that I know you’re dying to ask (because some of you did) is: Well, then how big is the TOS battlestar if Glenn Larson’s number is (as it clearly is) wrong?
The beautiful thing about the image at top is that it sidestepped that question, showing only relative size. To answer that question, we first have to know how big the RDM Galactica is.
Competing numbers have floated around for years. BSGW quotes two, both from preeminently trustworthy sources from within “Camp Hutzel”: Lee Stringer said 4720′ (1438.656m), and Mojo said 4740′ (1444.752m). Unfortunately, I have to argue that both are wrong. The battlestar Galactica is approximately 1,330m long.
A few years ago, Mojo dug out the original Stringer model and posted a set of high-resolution orthographic renders. The Viper tube aperture on his “revisited” render is 25 pixels wide and 17 pixels high. Another useful detail that I learned writing The Racetrack Chronicle (from the operators of the Galacticaguise website at the suggestion of BSG Museum) was the dimensions of the actual hangar-bay sets: The full-size launch tube set was 16′ wide (4.8768m). That lines up nicely with the CG model viper, which, per Stringer/BSGW, had a 15.5’wingspan. So, on Mojo’s render, 25px = 4.8768m ∴ 1px = 0.195072m. Based on that, we can calculate the actual dimensions of the ship:
- From the very front of the bow to the aftmost tip of the upper engine-bell, Mojo’s render is 6835px, i.e. 1333.31712 meters. From the bow to stern excluding the outboard engine nacelles, the’s 6350px, i.e. 1238.7072 meters.
- Draft is inapplicable and height is tricky because there’s no one “tallest part of the ship.” But if we measure from the highest part of the Roundrel on her gun-deck to the lowest part of the alligator-head’s lower-jaw, excluding protrusions and armor, she’s 988px or 192.731136 meters.
- It we take the top-down render and scale it carefully, we find a beam—with her flight-pods extended (and extenders braced)—of 2658px, i.e. 518.501376m.
Keep in mind that Mojo’s render, while glorious and gorgeous, isn’t remotely big enough for us to be as precise as those decimals might imply. (They’re given to that many figures so that you can check my work.) We have to squint a bit, and round. Nevertheless, I’m comfortable saying that the “correct” overall dimensions of the battlestar Galactica, based on the sets and CG models, are 1,330 meters long, 190 meters high, and 520 meters wide.
With these numbers measured and calculated, we can now move on to the approximate lengths of the Valkyrie, the Pegasus, and the TOS battlestar.
- On my original of the comparison-chart, Galactica is 1173px long (engine-bells included but bow antennae excluded), ∴ 1173px=1333.31712m ∴ 1px = 1.13667273657289m.
- From bow to stern, the TOS battlestar is 679px, so she is a nose shy of 772 meters long.
- From bow to stern, the Valkyrie is 456px long, so she is a nose over 518m.
- From bow to stern (excluding the pipework protruding from the stern), the Pegasus, despite her bow being clipped in the image as posted, is 1,421px long and 249px from the lowest part of the ventral launch-bays (protrusions and bow antennae excluded), so she is 1,615 meters long and 283 meters high.
Now: Just one more thing. There’s a last bit of business we can do; call it a cyclic redundancy check of sorts. If we take the fan-created but looks-right render of the Valkyrie that does the rounds, the Valkyrie is 2358px long, ∴ 2358px = 518m ∴ 0.2196776929601357m.
Remember that the whole premise of this exercise is that the launch-tubes must be of consistent size between different ships in the same military operating the same fighters. If all these calculations and measurements have been correct, then, we should be able to line up the bow projection of the Valkyrie from that image and find that the tubes are the right size—within the fudge-factor of the imprecision inherent in the scale. Remember that those tubes should be 4.8m wide to match the actual hangar-bay set.
Ladies and gentlemen, on that image, the Valkyrie‘s tubes are 19px wide. That’s 4.17m—correct to within barely a meter.
With all this in mind, I think that we can be very confident that the battlestar Galactica is approximately 1,330 meters long, the Valkyrie-type battlestar is approximately 520 meters long, the Pegasus is approximately 1,615 meters long, and the TOS battlestar is approximately 770 meters long.