Design How to Build a Colonial Space Station

#1
In order to build a space station, or other major spacecraft, you will need very lightweight but very strong materials. The reason being that the lighter something is, the easier it is to get it into space. As it stands now, goats are being genetically modified with genes that allow them to produce spider silk protein in their milk. This is most excellent, but we may need more than this method can provide for. I suggest that the humble watermelon may be a better candidate for this type of genetic manipulation. The fruit of a watermelon is mostly water and is dense enough and of the right consistency to provide a good physiological framework such that strategic introduction of the spider silk genes may yield very favorable results. I should however note that I am only in favor of growing plant GMO's for industrial purposes in strict quarantine.


Of course rigid lightweight materials will also be needed, and for this you can't beat carbon nanotube material (which for ease of typing I will call CNTM). The problem with CNTM is that producing it in mass quantity is very difficult. I believe perfectly formed individual long carbon nanotubes can be generated by passing very high intensity narrow beam lasers through a translucent polymer medium. Mind you, I've not worked out the fine details, only the general concept. Since CNTM is also an electrically conductive material it can also be used to create electrical systems controlled by graphene processors.


Now there are many things a space station has to provide. While on conventional space craft these things are provided by machinery, for a colonial space station many of these needs can better be met using biology and/or biomimicry. Cultivation of plants and algae can provide for both the Oxygen and nutritional needs of the inhabitants. Certain varieties of plants and algae may also be useful in the purification of waste water. UVC light can be used to destroy any microbes that may remain after water is purified using bio-filtration. Biomass from both agricultural activities and human waste can be processed to extract bio-methane to augment ships power. White LED lights produce light with a spectrum closely resembling that of daylight and is very energy efficient, making it ideally suited for agriculture as well as general lighting. Mechanical systems would be in place as backups to biological ships systems.


... To be continued.



- Cham
 
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#2
The basic design of a Colonial Space Station (CSS) must, out of necessity, be modular. Prior, however, to construct the station itself, an assembly module would first have to be built, and prior to this, an orbital construction robot (or robots) would need to be constructed. The robot would not need to have much strength, but would require great dexterity. CNTM tubing, gears, panels, and artificial spidersilk cable would be the primary materials used in the construction of all three systems. Electrical current could be passed through the CNTM in certain areas to heat it enough to prevent the spidersilk cables, power systems, and other critical components from freezing. The construction robots primary mass will come from the lithium polymer power cells at it's core.


The construction robot (or robots) would not need to be very large since the initial building blocks it would be assembling in space would be very small and low mass. The robot would be essentially assembling pieces that are not much bigger than lego and tinker toys, and which would assemble with similar simplicity. Some of these component pieces would be interlocking small photo-voltaic cells, others would contain micro-circuitry, while most would be structural pieces. The robot(s) would built small pieces, launched in rockets into orbit, into major components that could then be quickly assembled together by astronauts on a spacewalk, and later by astronauts in an orbiting facility built during that spacewalk. Because the component pieces are so lightweight, they can be launched from a high atmosphere dirigible suspended launch platform. Propulsion may be provided by rockets fired by high altitude aircraft designed to hook and drag the payload into orbit.


... To be continued.



- Chameleon
 
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dDave

Guardian of the Light
V.I.P.
#3
The basic design of a Colonial Space Station (CSS) must, out of necessity, be modular. Prior, however, to construct the station itself, an assembly module would first have to be built, and prior to this, an orbital construction robot (or robots) would need to be constructed. The robot would not need to have much strength, but would require great dexterity. CNTM tubing, gears, panels, and artificial spidersilk cable would be the primary materials used in the construction of all three systems. Electrical current could be passed through the CNTM in certain areas to heat it enough to prevent the spidersilk cables, power systems, and other critical components from freezing. The construction robots primary mass will come from the lithium polymer power cells at it's core.


The construction robot (or robots) would not need to be very large since the initial building blocks it would be assembling in space would be very small and low mass. The robot would be essentially assembling pieces that are not much bigger than lego and tinker toys, and which would assemble with similar simplicity. Some of these component pieces would be interlocking small photo-voltaic cells, others would contain micro-circuitry, while most would be structural pieces. The robot(s) would built small pieces, launched in rockets into orbit, into major components that could then be quickly assembled together by astronauts on a spacewalk, and later by astronauts in an orbiting facility built during that spacewalk. Because the component pieces are so lightweight, they can be launched from a high atmosphere dirigible suspended launch platform. Propulsion may be provided by rockets fired by high altitude aircraft designed to hook and drag the payload into orbit.


... To be continued.



- Chameleon
It's an interesting thought, to be sure, but I think by the time we get to the point where it's actually possible to build a modular colonial space station our ideas will be obsolete. There's so much to consider, so many logistics, technologies, are we really ready to build a space station where lots of people could live?

I think the biggest obstacle to getting any kind of colony in space is actually with the transportation costs. Currently, the only way to get into space is using a rocket which burns some insanely expensive fuel, the craft itself is also quite costly. We'd need to transport people, all the building materials, food, water, energy sources (if we don't solve that problem eventually).

Cham, what are your thoughts on how to actually get it done?
 
#4
It's an interesting thought, to be sure, but I think by the time we get to the point where it's actually possible to build a modular colonial space station our ideas will be obsolete. There's so much to consider, so many logistics, technologies, are we really ready to build a space station where lots of people could live?

I think the biggest obstacle to getting any kind of colony in space is actually with the transportation costs. Currently, the only way to get into space is using a rocket which burns some insanely expensive fuel, the craft itself is also quite costly. We'd need to transport people, all the building materials, food, water, energy sources (if we don't solve that problem eventually).

Cham, what are your thoughts on how to actually get it done?
Well it's jumping ahead a bit, but basically Sir Richard Branson is already working on it. A similar technology that would transport people from the Earth to Bransons' orbital hotels would be used to get folks to an intermediary orbital craft, where they would then transfer to a second shuttle for transport to the CSS. The CSS would orbit further out so when fully loaded it would have an easier time escaping the Earth's gravity. The Branson plan for getting people into space utilizes a space shuttle that is launched from a high altitude aircraft. Using aerodynamics to get people most of the way is much more efficient than using brute force. And yes, it would take many trips. The expected population capacity for the CSS would be approximately 6,000 people.


The bigger plan would be to have not one, but several of these ships in operation orbiting different planets in our solar system. The purpose of these ships would be to ensure human survival should the Earth experience an extinction level event. Each CSS would have manufacturing facilities and raw materials, primarily iron, would be mined from asteroids and beamed to the station in a steady stream particle ray. Particles of iron and other metals would be removed from the beam using magnetic induction and directed to a collection chamber for smelting. The manufacturing facilities would allow creation of CSS extension pods (large rooms that can be configured as passenger quarters, agricultural facilities, or utility pods). Individual components could also be manufactured. Each CSS would therefore be very expandable, and once critical mass is reached, pods can be assembled into a separate CSS. The expansion pods made on board the CSS would be made mainly of metal rather than CNTM.



- Cham
 
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dDave

Guardian of the Light
V.I.P.
#5
6,000 people. That's almost scary to think about. Theoretically, one ill-meaning person could cause a lot of trouble.

Even if a space station existed where people could live, I wouldn't necessarily want to live there. I think I'd miss home far too much. There's a lot to leave behind.

Do you have any links to the actual project? I'd be very interested to see any prototype designs for the station.
 
#6
Not unless I can link you into my mind. I am considering doing a rough 3D rendering of the station but I'm tremendously lazy and am not getting paid for any of this, dreaming it up is just a hobby of mine. My android designs are further along. I would tell you about those but then I'd have to kill you. :D


My current thinking is that the CSS room modules would be 43' x 40' (interior). The modules would have removable panels on 4 sides, and a capped port hole in the top. The relative front and back of each module would be angled ever so slightly so that the modules would create a giant circle with the roofs facing inward. The residential modules would be configured as two 800 square foot apartments on either side of a 3 foot wide hallway. All heating, plumbing, electrical, and ventilation would be routed through a utility space above the ceiling. Artificial gravity is provided by rotating the station. After a module ring is constructed, it is pressurized and the panels between the modules removed. Initially I was thinking of connecting each module in the ring to a central hub by way of utility conduits and having most ships utilities and propulsion handled in the central hub.


I have more recently decided that for reasons of component uniformity and easier propulsion, as well as critical system redundancy, a better idea is to expand the utility space atop each module and run a connecting conduit along the inside of the ring, then distributing critical ships systems, including propulsion, to dedicated, more specialized modules. This would make the diameter of the station substantially greater and create the need for more versatile manufacturing modules. Once a ring is completed, modules can be added to the sides to begin new rings, forming a big tube of interlinked rooms.


The CSS is designed in such a way as to limit the effects of any bad situation. Individual modules have self-contained emergency life support systems built in, and access can be closed off instantly in the event of depressurization, fire, utility malfunction, or criminal activity. The materials that the stations primary structures are made of is one of the strongest materials known to man (CNTM) capable of withstanding significant explosive and implosive forces. The outside walls of the station (beneath the fibersilica heat shielding) are 2 polylaminated CNTM layers sandwiching a soft silicon honeycomb mesh, and backed with a protein based material the consistency of dense polystyrene. This shielding is designed to stop projectiles traveling at many times the speed of a bullet and to resist large explosive forces. The inner walls are also polylaminated CNTM but laminated on both sides to offer resistance to projectiles and explosive forces from both inside and outside of the room. Computer systems monitor each module for temperature, utility functionality, oxygen, CO2 and contaminant levels, pressure, occupant vital signs, and vocal calls for assistance which place occupants in immediate contact with station security by way of station intercom.


The CSS design is a work in progress, but is coming along quite well. I am hoping that reader input and inquiry will help me to refine the concept and maybe correct any oversights.



- Chameleon
 
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#7
Out amidst the cold blackness of space, it will be important to provide recreation and a taste of home to those on board the CSS. Each residence is equipped with a large high-resolution television that ordinarily shows a closed circuit feed to cameras mounted outside the ship and substitutes for a window. A relay satellite beams a plethora of TV channels to the station for residents to enjoy, and work is underway to develop quantum transceivers that would allow instant access to the Internet regardless of the stations proximity to Earth. A local area network can also be accessed and full version video games are also regularly downloaded for residents to enjoy, compliments of EA, Bungie, Capcom and others.


Each residential suite is also equipped with a VR Immersion kit (VRIk), which includes VR headset, tactile simulation suit and gloves. Each component can be used individually or together for a full VR immersion experience. The suits and gloves can simulate very closely a wide range of tactile sensations, including texture, temperature, and limited pressure. One can also pull a VR stroll pad out from under their bed and assemble the support rails to which a waste belt is attached using elastic cords. These pads allow users to stroll around virtual environments. The gloves can also function as power gloves, allowing users to interact with regular video games and software through their TV. Many games also support the VR headset. Fully suited up and standing on a stroll pad, a VRIk user can access a wide variety of virtual environments and interact with other users inside them. Each suite is equipped with high resolution VR sensors and wireless peripheral support for the suite's integrated computer system.


Of course one can't rely entirely on artificial recreation and interaction, so some station modules have been converted into social hangouts, including restaurants, pubs, clubs, and gyms, as well as virtual parks loaded with real plants and full wall high resolution backdrops that include such details and intermittent wildlife activity and plants swaying in gentle breezes that coincide with actual breezes generated by hidden fans. Appropriate audio is also piped in through hidden speakers. In the establishments that serve alcohol, the same technology that monitors occupants vital signs also provides staff with an indication when they've had enough to drink. And in gyms, a warning is given when an occupant is overexerting themselves to dangerous levels. Passengers are required to agree to the computers discretion on this matter as part of the CSS Rules of Conduct Agreement before being allowed on board the station.



- Chameleon
 
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#8
While considering the construction of a CSS, the question inevitably presents itself... "How are we going to move this beast?" Well the working idea is to use plasma ejection thrust engines (PETEs). The problem is that on a CSS, matter is precious because it is limited. The only form of matter that is regularly transmitted to the station is iron, by way of particle beams from mining stations in the asteroid belt. A little iron must therefore go a long way. I don't actually know how good a candidate iron is as a plasma fuel but I suspect it would be more than adequate. The PETEs ejectors would be mounted on a swivel on the underside of the propulsion modules and angled away from the hull surface. By pivoting the ejectors and activating different combinations of engines, it should be possible to accelerate the station in any direction and rotate the station around any axis with minimal torsion stress. More information is sought regarding the expansion rate, level, and temperature of iron during plasma state conversion. Any reader input in this area would be appreciated. Other metal candidates common to asteroids will also be considered. PETEs could conceivably be "flex fuel" systems.


During station repositioning and maneuvers, residents are required to strap themselves into specially designed chairs that flip out from one of the walls of their suite so they do not end up negatively affected in the event of temporary loss of gravity or change of gravitational directionality. Sick bags are available from the arm of the chair. :D Most objects on the station are equipped with either magnets or suction cup material on the bottom to prevent free-floating during maneuvers, those that aren't are secured before maneuvers begin.


Because matter is so precious on the station, out of necessity, all objects, from furnishings to decor to containers are recyclable. A few exceptions include materials that are quickly biodegradable. Most objects are made of a protein based polymer called Uniplast. This plastic is both recyclable and biodegradable, and is has a wide range of potential properties depending on subtle variations in it's formulation. Glass and metal are also used, but to a more limited degree because they require much more energy to recycle. Uniplast is made from waste products of agricultural operations on the station, including those that filter and oxygenate the air and purify the water. Even the dust in vacuum cleaner bags is precious. Not an atom can be wasted.



- Chameleon
 
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#9
Because each module ring contains all the specialized module types required to house and sustain a population of a few hundred people, as well as propulsion modules, smelting and manufacturing facilities, though it would take some time and effort, individual rings can be split from the station and become the foundation of a whole new CSS. A fully built out CSS has 20 rings with a structural capacity for 2 "heavy" (station built) module rings to be added (one on either end). Light CSS module rings can therefore be split off the original CSS, sent to a region of space where resources are plentiful for construction of a Heavy CSS, then split off of that and return to the original station when construction is completed, leaving a skeleton crew on board. While in orbit above a planet or moon, construction of CSS modules can be accelerated due to the ability to construct mining modules and send them to the surface. Because individual station modules can also be separated from the station, station configuration can be changed to meet changing demands. A heavy ring can, for example, be made of primarily manufacturing and smelting/collector modules, and obsolete modules can be recycled into other types after a project is completed.



- Cham
 
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