Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Rotating Wheel Space Station/Habitat, Part I

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(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1973 edition of Operation Umanaq (1973), John Rankine)

Here are only a small portion of the cover images I’ve collected of space stations and space habitats of the rotating wheel variety — i.e. the ring (or a torus) spins creating pseudo-gravity.  As in the double-wheeled space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)…  I have always been enamored with space stations/habitats which was part of reason I adored Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a kid (although today I prefer it over the over Star Treks due to the complicated arc and inter character relationships/friendships) — however, the station would have been so much more interesting if the gravity wasn’t artificially generated but rather created by a rotating wheel.

My favorite is Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1973 edition of Operation Umanaq (1973) by John Rankine — it is ultra realistic and nicely detailed against a vivid background.  Of all of Earle Bergey’s pulp art I’ve always enjoyed his cover for the 1953 edition of Space Platform (1953) by Murray Leinster….  It depicts a torus space habitation being built on the ground with (I’m guessing) the rockets attached to launch it into space.

What are your favorites? (and the works themselves?)

Part II is in the works.



(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the #5 Science Fiction Stories UK edition 1958)


(W. E. Terry’s cover for the November 1953 issue of Imagination)

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(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1979 edition of The Menace from Earth (1959), Robert A. Heinlein)

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(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1975 edition of Satellite City (1975), Mack Reynolds)

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(Koslow’s cover for the 1961 edition of Skyport (1959), Curt Siodmak)

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(I. Heilbron’s cover for the 1953 edition of Space Platform (1953), Murray Leinster)


(George Schelling’s cover for the June 1965 issue of Galaxy)


(Sol Dember’s cover for the March 1958 issue of Galaxy)


(Mel Hunter’s cover for the Febuary 1954 issue of Spaceway Stories of the Future)


(Earle Bergey’s cover for the 1953 edition of Space Platform (1953), Murray Leinster)


(Ric Binkley’s cover for the 1954 edition of Spaceways Satellite (1953), Charles Eric Maine)

THBSTFSCFT1964(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1964 edition of The Best of Sci Fi 3 (1964), ed. Cordelia Titcomb Smith)

 For similar posts consult the INDEX

12 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Rotating Wheel Space Station/Habitat, Part I

  1. A very nice collection! The Spaceway: Stories of the Future cover made my eyes hurt, though. Not in a bad art way, just all those sweeping lines intersecting at strange angles made it hard to see what was going on.

    • Haha, I think they’re putting the wings onto the spaceship — as if a spaceship build in space actually needs wings, but ok… But yes, a little tricky figuring out what is happening.

  2. Yeah, definitely. The weirdness I was getting was from following the main lines of the wings, then the eye slips off and finds itself following a similar curve on the main-fuselage’s tail, then off onto the other wing. Composition is supposed to guide the eye around the whole image, but in that one its a bit of an obstacle course. A good idea though. I’m not sure the Aerospace companies of the future would appreciate a bunch of workers assembling their ships quite like that though – somewhat imprecise use of rocketized pogo sticks. 🙂

    • I’ve had a post in the works about “building” in space. I suspect I have some more “realistic” scenes of building space ships… hmmm…. would be a cool post!

  3. I always found it fascinating that the Project Orion rockets never got any real play in sci fi. I mean it was a decently legitimate (they built a test rocket at least) nuclear propulsion plan.

    You drop a bomb out of the back, and go cruising when it hits this massive blast plate. How awesome is that?

    You’d think someone would have written a story about this clunky cold war era space ship full of hundreds of people (their original plan) banging around the galaxy.

  4. This may be too obscure for a column in your cover art series, but what about a mashup of the space station and viewscreen columns: Approaching Space Station As Seen From Inside A Ship?

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