Saturday, March 24, 2007

Artificial Gravity Via Space Elevator Stations Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

(Image Credit: David Mat, via LiftPort Gallery)

With humanity regaining their foothold among the stars, there seems to be much chatter regarding the possibility of orbital space stations circling our planet.

But in order for humanity to inhabit the heavens above us, we will need to find a way to create artificial gravity as the lack of it can have some nasty side affects upon the human body (thus banishing ourselves from large terrestrial worlds).

Constructing space elevator stations (provided that building space elevators is feasible) may not only be the answer towards us living among the stars, but also enable us to bring our animal friends with us as well.

One of the key elements keeping the space elevator "up" is centrifugal force. Often observed (or felt) when one rides in a car around a sharp turn, the centrifugal force at the top of a space elevator may provide enough "push" to simulate earthen gravity.

This would enable future space travelers to live within the space elevator station (which could also serve as a counterweight) for years without the fear of being stranded in space due to health reasons (via micro gravity).

Although some people have suggested building Goliath-sized rotating space stations, these space structures may end up transforming into an engineers nightmare as one would have to figure out how a shuttle could dock on the station without destroying it (let alone funding the project as space launches are not getting cheaper).

A space elevator station would probably provide a more reasonable approach as any space craft could dock onto the object without worrying about unnecessary twists and turns.

Despite the fact that current designs of the modern space elevator do not include a space elevator station as a counterweight, it would not be surprising to see one built on top of these future marvels. A space elevator station would definitely attract space tourists from around the globe as it would not only provide an impressive view of our own world, but also simulate earthen life within its environment.

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  1. these space structures may end up transforming into an engineers nightmare as one would have to figure out how a shuttle could dock on the station without destroying it (let alone funding the project as space launches are not getting cheaper).

    I have some sympathy for the school of thought that claims platforms will be hard pressed to be a place for long-term habitation.

    We seem to be designed to need gravity to thrive - or at least to raise babies. This implies a large rotating structure. This implies a large ongoing budget - the thing is dynamic and moving all the time - it's going to be an expensive place to live.

    It should be cheaper to dig into the dirt in the Moon and Mars.

    Space platforms will certainly have their place - but it will be more like off-shore oil platforms do now. Fine place to work, lously place ot raise a family.

  2. If we can build a 100-meter ISS, it should not be that difficult to built a rotating station. Any object left alone in Space will start rotating anyway. How difficult would it be to dock? Ask an astronaut.

  3. Hey Brian and Louise!

    Thanks for stopping by.

    To Brian: Excellent point! These might be feasible around asteroid colonies with low gravity (if any at all!). A rotating station could be set up allowing colonists to raise families while working in the micro environment at short intervals.

    To Louise: I guess we could figure out how to dock on one of these stations, although it would probably be easier to slow down the station in order to dock it with an incoming ship (or simply have docking ports along the outside).

    Either way, terrestrial colonies (and space elevator ones) may be more attractive, mainly because of the "constant view."

  4. Docking a rotating space station and space ship is relatively easy providing it happens at the centre. The centre only turns very slowly. See the film "2001 a Space Odyssey" and the tv programme "Babylon 5" for examples.

    If the space station is attached to the space elevator ribbon the central core will probably be static to prevent the ribbon being twisted or damaged.

  5. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for visiting! Docking to these stations is probably not impossible, although transporting supplies from the non-rotating part of the station to the rotating part may be a major hassle.

    People may ultimately prefer settling down on terrestrial worlds as opposed to orbital stations (I sure would) as you have a larger backyard to explore.

  6. 3 revolutions a minute is 3 * 360 / 60 = 18 degrees per second.
    If the entry point is 5 feet from the centre then speed = 2 π r d/360 = 2 * π * 5 * 18 /360
    = π/2 = 1 foot 7 inches per second
    That is 1.07 miles per hour. This is slow since we walk at 2 miles per hour.

    In metric, at a 2 metre (6 foot 6 inches) from the centre entry point the speed = 2 * π * 2 * 18/360
    = 0.2 π = 0.63 m/s or 2.26 km/h

    If the entry point is deliberately chosen to be 5 to 10 feet from the centre then walking onto the rotating section is no more difficulty than getting onto an escalator.

    Items larger than 10 feet may have to be packet to take a short term acceleration of 2 to 3 g but the same applies on the Earth.

  7. Just a few points about docking on a rotating station:
    1. It would be much simpler to dock on the central structure, avoiding the mechanics and fuel expenditure needed to match the rings circular motion.
    2. Once docked outside the ring, the craft would shift the centre of gravity, thus shifting the centre of rotation and affecting the distribution of "respective" gravity.
    3. In any context a stationary target is easier to hit - any craft attemping to dock would be less likely to crash when the airlock isn't moving.


You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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