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Why was Babylon 5 stationed and built orbiting around Epsilon III?

In Star Trek Deep Space 9 Terok Nor was built and orbited over Bajor, which had a reason for doing so as the Cardassians had used it to manage the occupation.

But Babylon 5 just seems to be randomly built and stationed over a random planet.

Any reason for its position?

18

Yes, it was brought up in 1x18, A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 1, and hinted at in the voice-overs for Season 1 and Season 2 (bolding mine):

Season 1 voiceover:

Jeffrey Sinclair: It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth/Minbari war. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

Season 2 voiceover:

John Sheridan: The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. A self-contained world five miles long, located in neutral territory. A place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space, all alone in the night. It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind… the year the Great War came upon us all. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

A Voice in the Wilderness:

Susan Ivanova: We were told that the planet we're orbiting is stable, safe, and uninhabited. Now it appears to be none of those things.

Being in neutral territory and unaligned with any of the major powers (besides the Earth Alliance running it) makes it the perfect place for diplomatic negotiations to take place, since any wars should not involve the station.

EDIT

Since I guess this question included, "Why not build the station in empty space?", here's a pretty good reason:

Babylon 5

See those 12 blue "wings", 6 on each side? Those are solar panels. Babylon 5 gets a large chunk of its energy from the star that Epsilon III orbits, so it has to be close enough to the star to get a reasonable amount of energy.

EDIT 2: It looks like these were originally designed as solar panels, but prior to the show being created, JMS changed them to "heat dissipators", which I presume are similar to heat sinks. Heat sinks only work when there's something to transfer the heat to - such as a planet's atmosphere. However, this would require B5 to be partially in the atmosphere of Epsilon III, which we can be fairly sure it isn't - since most ships are not built for it, including most starfuries.

EDIT 3 (2017-10-16) - A piece of dialogue from the pilot movie, The Gathering: "(something something) for ambient heat energy from the solar collectors.", around 1:15 when they're scanning for the Changeling Net. The onscreen visual also says "Filtering Collector Heat", but does not highlight any part of the station.

Below was written on the belief that those are solar panels

(Which, IMO, still makes most sense as those "heat dissipators" aren't even near the fusion reactor seen at the end of 3x02)

Orbiting the star at that close range means it has to do one of the following:

  • Dodge planets, wasting energy/resources with usage of engines that were never built into Babylon 5 (all it has are thrusters that help it keep orbit).
  • Achieve a perfect orbit that doesn't intersect with anything else orbiting the star. Since it doesn't have a planet's gravity well as protection, there's bound to be additional debris, like meteors, it has to deal with.
  • Orbit a planet, using it as a shield from debris, and following its orbit around the star (since we can be quite certain it won't intersect another planet).

Babylon 4, on the other hand, appears to have been of a rather different design:

Babylon 4

The solar panels all point in one direction. It was the largest and most expensive of the stations. And there doesn't appear to be a planet where it was.

It looks likely that Babylon 4 probably was meant to sit outside the orbit of any planet, and adjust its positioning as necessary. It also wasn't officially online yet, so it may not have been moved into optimal position, either.

But when it disappeared and work on Babylon 5 was started, it ended up the smallest and cheapest of all the stations, and probably had to be more efficient in its power usage - so, for reasons above, orbiting a planet was likely the best choice.

  • 2
    @Jared Added a bunch more about planet/no planet – Izkata Dec 28 '12 at 1:53
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    Ok, I found a comment from JMS when talking about designing the station on GEnie in 1992: "and we've dropped the solar panels, incorporating the idea of edges rising out of the sides with the heat dissipators." (jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-7549&query=solar panels) – David Jan 2 '13 at 12:47
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    @Izkata - so how did the US Space Shuttles radiate heat? The experience of NASA seems to show that heat sinks/radiators DO work in space. Mind you, the 'fins' on B-5 certainly look like solar panels and any lay-person would probably assume so without thinking about it. There are more comments from JMS from his Usenet days regarding those panels and I'll look if I get some time. – David Jan 7 '13 at 14:27
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    @Izkata while it's correct that heat transfer via convection or conduction wouldn't happen outside the atmosphere, heat is still radiated even in a vacuum via the Stefan-Boltzmann law. The amount of power radiated is proportional to the surface area, so it makes some sense that the B5 design has large flat panels which appear to be adjustable. (They would work best in shadow.) – ghoppe Jan 7 '13 at 16:06
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    Radiators work great in space and are absolutely required. Those enormous silver panels perpendicular to the line of site in this picture are the ISS radiators. spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-127/hires/… – Organic Marble Mar 3 '15 at 19:24
5

The Minbari actually had demands about the station(s), both in their design/functionality and the location. Remember, they have historical records such that they know one will be sent back in time to be used in the previous Shadow War. It's not implausible that Varn even had some way of communicating to the Minbari, or that Valen/Sinclair himself left instructions to that effect.

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    I'm pretty sure the only say the Minbari had was in who ran it - they didn't know where Valen's station came from, and I remember Delenn mentioning having been quite surprised when they saw Babylon 5 for the first time. I don't believe they had a clue about the time travel part until Valen's instructions were finally opened, either. – Izkata Dec 28 '12 at 0:07
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    They didn't know where it came from until the creation of such a station was proposed. Delenn was in contact with Vorlons, and even if she didn't perfectly understand, she would have relayed instructions. – John O Dec 28 '12 at 0:20
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    "How long have you known about this?" "Not long. Until I came to Babylon 5, none of us knew where the station had come from." - Delenn about Babylon 4, War Without End, Part I – Izkata Jan 8 '13 at 13:19
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From Wikipedia

The Epsilon Eridani (ε Eridani) system, situated 10.5 light years from Sol, is located in a fairly central position between the galactic powers. The position makes it a perfect, albeit second, choice for the Babylon 5 space station.

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If you look at a political map of space for Babylon 5, the Epsilon system is is an unclaimed region between all of the major empires. (except for the Vorlon, who travel through Mimbari space to reach B5) The different stations were each (to my knowledge) located at different places in this region. Babylon 5 just happened to be at Epsilon 3 because it had to be somewhere.

There is a case to be made for certain types of uninhabitated planets, in certain types of systems (stable systems, not binary or trinary systems which are the norm in space), with other considerations regarding hyper gate locations that would have narrowed down the list from hundreds of locations.

It's likely there were only a dozen ideal candidate locations for a station of this type, and it just happened to be located, unknowingly above an ancient super weapon that would later save the main characters multiple times. = ) TV Trophes = )

(records of Babylon 4s time traveling did not survive into the series' present, save for the letter that Delenn would receive from a time capsule of sorts, after the final Babylon 5 station was already in operation. (so it's unlikely that the Babylon 5 station locations were chosen by the Mimbari because time travel related reasons)

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    Can you actually show a political map of the Babylon 5 universe? – Valorum Mar 3 '15 at 18:32

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