Technically Feasible Huge Next Generation Space Station

The Goal of Gateway Foundation Von Braun Station is to build a dual-use station that is economically self-sustaining.

There are corrections to this article as of Aug 27, 2019. I interviewed John Blinkow and received details on the 400 person Von Brau n station. I will follow up with several articles on Gateway. The plan is to stay in regular communication with Gateway Foundation.

John Blincow’s videos start with views of the Gateway instead of the von Braun Station. The von Braun station is a nearer-term, smaller project that will provide on-orbit research and commercial facilities as well as ample space tourism opportunities, and will test many of the techniques and operations strategies needed for the much larger, longer-term Gateway Spaceport. Assuming SpaceX is successful with its plans for recovering both stages of its Super-Heavy/ Starship vehicle, and/or Blue Origin is successful with its New Armstrong launch vehicle, construction of the von Braun Station will cost a small fraction of what the US has spent on the ISS. Please view the videos at


Tom Spilker is the Chief Architect of the Gateway Foundation and the Vice President for Engineering of Orbital Assembly Corp., the operational subsidiary of the Gateway Foundation that will build the von Braun station. My Ph.D., in electrical engineering, is from Stanford University, just down the road from you.

The Von Braun station looks like twenty-four modules 12 meters diameter by 20 meters modules. These are larger than the Bigelow 330 meters which has a length of 16.88 meters and a diameter 6.7 meters. Each Von Braun module is about 8000 cubic meters. The full Von Bruan Station is about 240,000 cubic meters. This will be about the volume of a cruise ship. The Von Braun modules are solid. They are not inflatable.

They plan a larger Gateway Spaceport with 11 million cubic meters of pressurized volume versus 931 meters for the International space station. This would be 12,000 times larger volume. It would be 488 meters in diameter. It would have 1.6 times the diameter of the largest stadium dome (300 meters in diameter) in the world which is a sports stadium in Singapore. The Gateway will ahve the volume of the about forty large cruise ships.

The space station would spin like the space station in 2001. It would generate its own gravity. It would be designed to very comfortably hold 1500 staff and guests.

They have created a technically feasible engineering design. Von Braun Station creation will also form a space construction industry with bots, pods, drones, construction arms, new space suits, and large-scale truss building machines designed for building large structures in space.

This video, and the ones that will follow, were made for NASA and other aerospace engineers to see that this is a technically feasible design, with a solid business plan, that will allow NASA and other space agencies to buy, rent, or lease space on this station very affordably.

Later, when they have acquired the low-gravity data they need, they can move on to other projects with no binding financial ties.

We ask you all the same two questions:
1. Is this a good design?
2. Is the time right to build a rotating station to acquire valuable, low-gravity, human physiology data?

111 thoughts on “Technically Feasible Huge Next Generation Space Station”

  1. I am a huge fan of futurism, and recently had a chance to interview Axiom Space, who also plan to have a rotating space city with artificial gravity in 50 years (far more realistic).
    The problem with the Voyager is the lack of substantial volume in microgravity. Aside from space tourism, and there aren't nearly enough adventurous millionaires to keep this "hotel" full year round, a space station serves no purpose without microgravity.
    Manufacturing, medicine, and other scientific fields have many unique applications in microgravity. That is where your money is going to come from. Artificial gravity is for sleeping, exercise and tourists.
    Given how huge this thing is, and the lack of multiple revenue streams in the design, I find Voyager to be deeply flawed without a large number of orbiting manufacturing and science facilities to support it.
    If these facilities exist, then this is where the workers go to live and sleep…but that's a long ways off. Certainly not by 2030. It might explain why Axiom has a whole page of partners and investors on their website and Gateway has an impossible crowdfunding model.
    I'd love to see this happen, but it will take a few billionaire investors…and that isn't happening.

  2. The Von Braun Station design appears to be well underway. I am interested in working on interior designs for the larger Gateway Spaceport. But I need more info than 'It would be 488 meters in diameter.' What are the anticipated interior dimensions of the outer ring and the elevator spokes, for example? Thank you

  3. It would be simpler to utilize the equipment (which we currently have and use for a certain product manufacturing) and materials that we have, to actually fabricate 3 football stadium sized structures. Cost less all around, when you have the idea as well as the designs to actually engineer and implement. Look at it this way, every issue we have that relates to large and upgradable space structures, maintaining human life, the necessities of propulsion, power, and protection from what maybe…. Can be efficiently solved in the process of fabrication, and equipment necessary to establish the structures integrity. Less time by the right means in construction. Especially, with everyone going drone happy, lol.

  4. Yes, I was surprised by it myself. It can function as a physics education tool as well. I will definitely be buying it as a training tool for my son, and maybe for his school once he gets old enough. I will pay for it myself for his after school activities and classmates, it impressed me that much. Very impressive piece of software, should be adopted by NASA IMO.

  5. Ever price “extreme” vacations? They cost a pretty penny.

    Also, it seems a lot of people have forgotten (or never learned) about escape velocity. Several decades ago, Jerry Pournelle told a story about someone exclaiming “when you’ve reached orbit, you’re halfway to the rest of the solar system,” to which someone replied “no, you’re halfway to anywhere.” That’s why an earth orbit station is valuable. You’ve already spent enough delta-vee to start a trip to anywhere.

    It also simplifies earth to moon travel by allowing specialized spacecraft. Instead of some sort of “all in one” design that provides for a round trip in one package, like Apollo, a space station provides an intermediate stop. That way we can design earth to orbit (and return) ships, trans-lunar ships, and perhaps even lunar orbit to surface ships.

  6. I’ve seen people do some amazing things with Kerbal. One of them was building von Braun’s original rocket design.

  7. Some idea of the scale of this thing: an additional 1g gravity deck spun at the same spin rate of 1.18rpm would have a diameter of 1284 meters. The “depth” of the rings is 45 meters. The Stanford Torus design is 1790 meters across and 130 meters deep. If you just build this thing with a third deck (+how much mass?) and three times as deep (=3 times the mass) you’ve pretty much effectively got a small Stanford torus.

    This can’t be just added on to this design obviously, which is stressed for martian gravity, but if we can do this, then space habitats are doable too for about five times the cost.

  8. Using this station to investigate the effects of lunar and Martian gravity would serve the purpose of…living on the Moon and Mars. So, why not just go to the Moon and Mars and research the results there? In addition, at those destinations one can access material resources to largely eliminate shipping costs thereby making lunar and Martian settlements less expensive to set up and sustain than LEO colonies where resources have to be imported.

    Looking at just the rocket equation, it would cost about 1/4 the (propellant) cost to deliver a ton to LEO than to the lunar surface. But if that ton were a spare part that kept a 10-ton telerobot working then extracted 10X it’s mass before needing another spare part then the one-tone spare part resulted in 100 tons of spare parts being produced. So, it costs 25X more to ship to LEO than to the lunar (or Martian) surface. Granted, there’s more to costs than propellant cost but the 25X gives an idea that we need to question why LEO is the best place for settlement.

  9. Did some more research on this concept and found some explanations that is easy for even a non engineer like me to follow. It explains O’Neill cylinders and Stanford Torus, as well as the forces that are encountered with the different designs.

    FYI, I also found this game while I was researching this. It seems like a fantastic training tool for people to learn about space programs and how to design them. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet but seems to be very realistic.

  10. I noted earlier, the mass of the ring could be supported as tensile strain around the circumference. I don’t know which would be easier to build or would need less material.

    In any case, balance to keep the ring from wobbling is an interesting engineering problem.

  11. I think the spokes don’t have to support the entire mass of the ring. The ring can hold itself together with the G stress spread through the truss structure and the skin of the ring itself.

    One interesting problem is to keep the ring balanced enough to prevent wobbling which could overstress the structure, not to mention the folks living there.

  12. Evacuated Tube Transport. The more common acronym is ET3, after you add a 3rd T for “Technologies”, but that’s the company name, not the tech.

    It’s been covered on NBF before. It’s similar to hyperloop, but an older concept. They advocate smaller tubes and capsules, more similar to cars in size, but running over longer distances at higher speed. Eventually they want to make it a global network.

    In my own thinking, it can be combined with the ideas of cable-free elevators to get fast global door-to-door PRT. It would act like an elevator from door to street level (except you sit, not stand), like regular PRT inside a city (or it can go under-ground, similar to Elon Musk’s Boring company ideas), and like regular ET3 in between cities. Can’t do that with hyperloops – the pods are too large. And as I wrote in my previous comment, it can also be combined with launch loop ideas, so you’d get a single, integrated system for global door-to-door and door-to-LEO. Come to think of it, if it can dock into a suitable port on a large enough space station, it could also do door-to-door inside the space station.

    I imagine digital screens instead of windows, which can be set to show the street view when at street level. If it goes above ground inside the city, you can call it up like an Uber from anywhere it can access (or call it to your door or equivalent when you’re inside). Would need digital passports for border control (certainly some security challenges there, but solvable IMO).

  13. ETT?

    Google tells me this means endotracheal tube, which while highly relevent for someone having breathing difficulty under high G doesn’t quite seem correct.

  14. And you can just have the central hub spinning and then have it spool out the two counter-weighting modules to whatever diameter you need.

  15. Did some more research on this concept and found some explanations that is easy for even a non engineer like me to follow. It explains O’Neill cylinders and Stanford Torus, as well as the forces that are encountered with the different designs.

    FYI, I also found this game while I was researching this. It seems like a fantastic training tool for people to learn about space programs and how to design them. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet but seems to be very realistic.

  16. That’s where you should start, certainly. Not with a design you can’t spin up until the whole thing is built; With the “bolo” design, you can add more modules even after it’s spun up.

  17. It’s rather sobering to realize that if we ever want to limit launch to a relatively easy-to-tolerate acceleration of 1g, it would take nearly 15 min to reach orbit (and over 3000 km). That’s kind of depressing.

    My personal favorite approach is ETT combined with launch loop. Over long distances you’d already be traveling near orbital velocity anyway, and the vehicle has to be vacuum proof for ETT. So it takes minimal modification to add short-range space capability (just enough to get you to the nearest space station).

  18. One further twist on the neutral buoyancy idea.
    For SERIOUS g forces* you don’t want any air cavities in your body, because they would collapse under the acceleration.

    So you breath superoxygenated liquids, not air. Make sure the liquid fills your sinuses etc, and some claim we could survive launches at many 10s of g.

    *people have discussed this for say railguns launching to orbital speeds over a mere 20 km or so.

    So v = 8 000 m/s, acceleration distance = 20 000 m.
    v^2 = 2.a.d as we all learned in high school.
    Solve for a = V^2/(2*20000) = 1600 m/s/s = 160g

  19. Why not just a central hub with two hubs attached with tethers, spinning around? You can have any diameter you want and easier to build.

  20. Precessing the giant gyroscope 360 degrees a year doesn’t strike me as a challenging task, though. You’d align it with the axis perpendicular to the direction of the Sun. Radiators can hang beneath the living space, in the plane of the station, and be edge on to the largest local source of radiant heat, while the solar power panels can extend out along the axis from the non-rotating hub.

  21. Of course Brian didn’t look into it closely enough to find the updated designs of the smaller station (in the last diagram). One side of it is covered with solar panels, and that side would be facing the sun. They did go into pretty good detail on power generation. But for some reason they don’t mention it on the website, and they confusingly keep the stats for the large discarded version there prominently. I guess they just love those 3D graphics.

  22. Best version yet. Small enough to be realizable, and with a good use. Also, en route to Mars, it could do all the research everybody is saying has to be done first.

  23. Reading the ‘power’ link you posted, 29 modules × 140 kW ea (except for a couple) is … 4,000 kW. Close to my 4,500 kW guess.

    My “being pointed toward Sirius” might as well be “pointed at Sol” … except that remaining so is hard for a giant gyroscope. My own idea is … in a parking orbit perhaps 2,000 km from the Big Wheel, have a much, much lighter weight large solar array. It charges up battery pack shuttles, which convey to the Big Wheel, conserving momentum, too.

    After all, its not like the solar cells HAVE to be attached. Solves everything kinetic, in one go. 

    Thermals, yah.

    20° to 25° centigrade? 68° to 77° F? I’d rather imagine a range of –40° to +40° C for various parts. Deep-freezing for storage of foodstuffs, water (frozen, it doesn’t slosh about), pharmaceuticals. The CHIP-MAKING operation?

    Lastly, they talk ⅙G = “lunar gravity” in the outer ring. I rather think ½G is good, keeps our organs chugging. Since Fc = ω²R, and my Fc is ½*9.8 ≈ 5 m/s and R = 150 m then… ω → 0.18 radian/s.  About 30 seconds a revolution. Theirs was about a minute a rev.

    The rest of their thermal-management strategy is … ahem … weak. I’m going to leave it alone.

  24. Better idea: make it 100 m in diameter then place a central core of nuclear rockets and make it a interplanetary space-liner that travels a return trip to mars once every 18 months. Make a smaller version that acts as a Mars ferry, just add an engine.

  25. Ok. The article is poorly written and mixes the two station designs. The much larger one with an hangar angry the near future plausible one, with the several modules connected and with the bicycle like spokes.

    Better seeing their long video on YouTube

  26. Recumbent would place less stress, but maybe still more than a doctor would recommend. People with back problems, especially the older ones, often have other health issues that would make things more difficult. I imagine high g is still stressful on the body even if lying down.

    The neutral buoyancy is interesting. Might work. Could add a higher oxygen pressure to help breathing. Still, that’s a lot of trouble to go through to get a sick person into space.

    The neutral buoyancy suggests an alternative down on Earth: exoskeleton support. I wonder which would be more expensive.

  27. Yes, as I calculated in one of my other posts, the specific load on the beam due to its own weight is approximately g*r (more accurately, I guess 0.5*g*r). But as you note, the segment it carries still weighs the same, and thus applies the same load on the beams regardless of radius (and spin rate).

    Also, for the same “gravity”, the radius would decrease with increasing spin rate, so the total load would also decrease – which is in reverse to what JS assumed in his last paragraph.

    Edit: I think in many if not most cases, the load from the end mass will dominate. For example, for 1g at 1 rpm, the specific load due to the beams’ own weight is 9000 [N*m/kg], but aluminum specific yield strength is ~150000. If you multiply by the beam density, the load from its own weight is only 6% of the yield strength. The rest would go to the safety margin and holding the end mass.

    However, the larger the radius, the larger the circumference, so you can add more segments. If you do that, then the total load would indeed scale linearly with radius.

    (P.S.: If you double the radius you rotate by sqrt(1/2) for the same gravity, not by 1/4.)

  28. They should build this out of mostly materials mined and refined on the moon… -Cheaper pound-for-pound to get moon materials into orbit (or lagrange points), than from earth once facilities are built on the moon….

  29. IMO for a space port it would be a way better approach to stay modular and make “gravifuges” that (starting out) are just big enough such that the coriolis force does not make you feel sick. Put them as a whole in inside the non-rotating outer pressure wall. It’s worth the weight penality. Also pair them with counterrotating ones such that the station is still easy to turn.

  30. The “gravity” on each kg of mass depends only on the gravity you’ve set the system too, but the load on the structure DOES scale with radius.

    Your radial beams, for example, are supporting themselves plus the mass at the end of the beam. If we double radius and rotate at 1/4 the rate the load from the end mass remains the same. But the beam is now twice as long, so the mass of the beam is twice as big so the beam is supporting a larger load.

  31. Of course we know how. The question was how *easy* 1 g is compared to the decades long effort to learn long term 0 g living, given that 0 g may turn out to be a total bust for such living. Of course, ISRU is a bigger deal, and would help 1 g, which in turn helps justify ISRU. Without ISRU, I don’t see much that could have been different, but no ISRU has been a mistake for a long time!

  32. Then there is № 2, HEAT WICKING.

    It is supposed to be what, 300 m diameter.  

    A = π(½ D)²
    A = 3.1415 × 150²
    A = 70,700 m² … per face — if 100% covered. 

    Cutout A = 3.1415 × (⅓ 150)²
    Cutout A = 7,900 m²

    Outer ring:

    C = πD
    C = 3.1415 × 300
    C = 942 m

    Inner ring

    C = 3.1415 × ⅔ 300
    C = 630 m

    Lets say the 11,000,000 m² is 75% in the outer ring. Why not?  

    Vol-outer = ¾ 11,000,000 m³ 
    Vol-outer = 8,250,000 m³

    Depth = Vol / Ring face area
    Depth = 8,250,000 / ( 70,700 – 7,900 )
    Depth = 130 m

    OK.  Now we have some dimensions. What’s the surface area?

    A-total = 2 × 62,800 m² + ( C-outer + C-inner ) × 130 m
    A-total = 330,000 m²

    Power input? I’d believe 3 kW per person (1500 people). 4.5 megawatts. Probably low. Feels low. 4.5 MW ÷ 330,000 m² is 14 W/m². Hmmm… –147°C Not helpful. Dâhmned cold. But the front face, or maybe something therein might be lit. Who knows.  

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  33. So…

    Big wheel. In space.  

    My engineering brain asks some obvious questions:

    [1] Power generation?
    [2] Heat wicking?
    [3] Dynamic mass balancing?
    [4] Rest mass?
    [5] Centripetal mass flows.

    № 1 seems to have been missed entirely by the artist(s) diagramming the article’s big wheel. If you note, the present ISS has panels at least as large as the surface area of the Big Tube that’s pressurized. To make power. Because its vital for station-keeping, electronics + computers, HVAC, pumping fluids about, motors, actuator arms, interlocks and automation, biological systems (hydroponics lighting?)

    Seems like a big one. 

    I would imagine that the power requirements are both “linear by count-of-individuals” as well as “multiplicative by scale-of-the-thing”.  How much? There are a lot of square meters to keep insulated (or not), interiors heated (or not), fluids flowing (antifreeze). I’ve long felt that the “proper orientation” for such a space-wheel is axis-facing Sirius or Betelgeuse or Cassiopia.  

    Might not be exactly optimal, but centripetal inertia would keep it mostly pointing the right way, most of the time, all on its own.  

    Then POWER could be figured out in turn.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

    … more in replies to self …

  34. I’m not buying the idea that anyone involved in space missions was not aware of how to create 1g in a rotating space habitat.

    They had other priorities. But they were perfectly aware of how it would work.

  35. Would launching in a recumbent launch couch actually put loads on your spine? I’d have thought it would be no issue at all.

    What would worry me would be someone with weak chest muscles and possibly osteoporosis in the ribs trying to breathe against a high G launch.

    Perhaps worth looking at the idea of immersion tanks. Have the passengers immersed in water tanks (with breathing masks of course) so they are floating at neutral buoyancy and experience no g-forces at all beyond the very slight differential buoyancy of the different tissue types in their bodies.

  36. While I appreciate the concern, the doses they are talking about in that (and similar) warnings are 200 mg/kg. So that is someone who swallows the entire bottle of 60 pills at once (for whatever reason).

    Also, the exacerbating effect of alcohol was for chronic drinkers, where daily heavy drinking induces changes in the biochemical breakdown of the drug resulting in increased toxic metabolites. I’m not in any danger there.

    I was interested to read that short term acute drinking (still more than I was managing in my snowboarding recovery) actually seems to reduce the paracetamol toxic metabolites.

  37. In this case, tourism! I never had a clue people would like to look at the Earth from Space until they started doing it. I always thought the attraction would be the black sky. Being an amateur astronomer. Tourists are fickle, esp in a down economy, but a real economy can get started here. Space Solar Power is the biggie answer to your question, altho even ISRU is not part of their plan, it cannot suffer from their effort.

  38. Need to be able to shoot down small stuff with radar and capture big stuff for food. Space radar should be fairly easy, so the rest is just self defense.

  39. Right at the end, he sez we will have the confidence to build more after the first is done. Will we have the ISRU started to make the second one CHEAPER?

  40. I agree the article is a horrible jumble or mixed information. And I think that while you are right that the uses expressed are stupid as the primary reason for building it it’s also an important astrosociological angle to remember. Good reviews make hotels as it were.
    The problem with building it is as you say the prohibitive costs of sending material from Earth. I think that a station like this should be build alongisde the development of space refining. Proper moon base first as the base but a gate-way station will be extremely useful for those going to work in the deep (NEO mining, long term missions, Mars missions). Hell, if it’s got good spin gravity it’ll be a great place for long term workers returning to earth to acclimate to the heavy gravity.
    There is a lot of uses for a space station, the ones we get listed I think are there because all the members of the team working on this are engineers – not a single “humanist” (as it were) among them. So they stick with the rigid thinking of current trends.

  41. For the more engineering inclined:

    F = g*m = g*d*A*L
    (d density, A cross section area, L length = radius r)
    P = F/A = g*d*r
    P/d = g*r

    P/d is the specific load (load per unit density), which can be directly compared to specific yield strength. So any material whose specific yield strength is at least g*r is strong enough to hold g acceleration at r radius.

    For 1g “gravity” at 1 rpm, r is ~900 m, which gives a minimum specific yield strength of 9000 [N*m/kg].

    ASTM A36 steel is 32000 [N*m/kg]. Aluminum alloy is almost 150000 [N*m/kg]. So they both qualify.

    (This is just for a spoke to hold its own weight. For practical applications, you need to factor in the weight of the ring segment that it has to carry, and everything in it. Also, g is smaller closer to the center, so the above is a conservative approximation.)

  42. It does exists, it’s known as the micro gravity induced herpes infested international space station. It costs $35,000/night, transportation not included.

    Have fun.

  43. Good thinking! Grab the shuttle as it goes by, rather than forcing it to stop first. And fast spinner catcher/launcher could be a separate thing, not requiring the whole station to spin faster.

  44. This is an example of the complex market style thinking we need now. Before this, it was a question of possibility, not practicality. Now, we actually have to start paying for each step, so the trade off between getting started big with Earth launch v long term benefits of early ISRU is getting clear. I do know for certain we should have been doing robot experiments on lunar dirt long, long ago!

  45. I do agree that we know very little other than 1 g. However, failure to recognize how *easy* 1 g is to create in Space, (NOT on planets), has caused unneeded delay. Once we knew a few weeks was ok at 0 g, we had the info to start construction of 1 g habitats, as long as it did not take too long to get to them, or too long shifts to construct.
    This is an especially important strategy point, as we still DO NOT KNOW that long term 0 g is even acceptably safe. We should have spent some effort on rotating (very small) things so that we would have them if/when absolutely needed. Just cans on cables, not big rings.
    Now, it may turn out that partial g is good, but we only are sure about 1 g, and we need to get ISRU started ASAP. It will get much easier to have any g wanted after that. And watch that beer gut!

  46. You are generally correct, but the center will not make you any dizzier than any where else, as the whole thing rotates as one piece, until things start to get complex. Easy to get less g than at the max radius.
    gives interesting small size limits, very fast spin. To get started, not required.
    I’ve read that air pressure is a bigger structural load than creating g, but this is depends a lot on the details of the design.
    The size of the hab is at a “sweet spot” when the structure needed gets thick enuf to also provide radiation shielding, without a separate layer. ~5 miles dia for glass/Al, much larger for C composites, even more diamond strands. This is where you have rings instead of cylinders. Such as the Banks design D. Drakes mentions above.

  47. Any foreseeable launch tech would produce several gees during launch. People with back problems aren’t going to space anytime soon.

    If we’re talking about avoiding back problems for the elderly, that would only apply to people who live on those stations for several decades, starting from before they had any back problems.

    That puts it maybe 50+ years into the future, by which point we may well have much better treatments for such problems even at a full 1g (we might even get some good age reversal therapies by then). So to me, the whole “less gravity may be good for your back/knees” argument seems quite irrelevant.

  48. I would add to Doctorpat’s reply that the loads aren’t dependent on the spin rate directly, but the “gravity” (or centrifugal force) that each section feels.

    In turn, that “gravity” depends on the spin rate and radius according to g = F/m = r*w^2 (w = angular velocity, r = radius), but if you set it say to 1g at the edge, it’s still going to be 1g regardless of which w and r you pick to get there.

  49. Ah, the earthbound are at it again. Here is a little alien help:

    1. Wrong questions. Motivational question number zero: what do you want?
    2. “Designed to very comfortably hold 1500 staff and guests” — for what purpose? All that expense just so that 1500 earthbound terrans feel home 400km away from home? Sanity check: FAILED.
    3. Space construction at that scale requires space industry: space mining, space materials, space manufacturing, space power. You have none of that. You have been, and remain EARTHBOUND.
  50. I don’t see that many constraints for 1g or even higher, once you have in-space ISRU and industry so you can build large enough. Carbon-based materials can take the load, and probably at least some metals can too.

    I’ll agree that for any given material, a higher-g station would need more of it than a lower-g station, but with ISRU that’s not a limiting factor. Even less so with replicating tech further down the road.

  51. You could have a living section at 1g and recreational (and industrial) sections at various other g’s on the same station.

  52. Was going to post that, but then realized this type of station would benefit from using Lunar ISRU for the materials. That would require a lot of extra infrastructure to mine and process the materials, but once you have that in place, adding some dirt for radiation shielding is relatively easy.

    On the other hand, if the plan is to launch everything from Earth (presumably using SpaceX BFR), then staying in LEO is the way to go.

  53. Interesting point, IF there are no health impacts of 0.38g. But again, we just don’t know, and will those health impacts be bad enough to scrap your idea? Interesting!

  54. Is this a good design? No. If to understand artificial gravity in space start small. Add and expand after if feaseable. A good design starts with adaptability.

  55. So you’re saying that with a tiny bit of extra work and a paint job it could be a giant flying pepsi symbol? Or BMW, or Mercedes, or … let the bidding commence!

  56. If you go to the linked website, they start off with

    The Gateway Foundation was formed to build the first spaceport. To do that we must first build a few smaller structures. One of the most important projects is the Von Braun Rotating Space Station. 

    So yes, they talk about 2 different projects. The smaller Von Braun station made out of bigelow style units linked together, and then the big gateway project.

  57. To be fair, the last time I saw a doctor about back pain he

    • Told me it was my fault for snowboarding too fast
    • Told me to take the maximum dose of ibuprofen, combined with the max dose of paracetamol, combined with beer.
    • Then he bought me the first round of beer

    So all in all I was fairly OK with that.

  58. Docking centrally seems OK; I would expect a lot more docking infrastructure at the periphery – the economic advantage of the station (in addition to tourism) would seem to be a resupply / relaunch facility.

    Docks at the center take tourists + Earth-sourced supply (fuel, oxidizers, reaction mass, etc.) which gets transferred to the edges for resupply.

    Docks at the periphery allow easy transfer (via gravity) for fuel and other liquids/reaction mass/etc. – for destinations beyond the Earth’s magnetosphere. The station becomes the de-facto starting point for solar system travel. This station becomes the new “Cape Canaveral” for the rest of the solar system with the added benefit of a spinoff launch where your vehicle has 100% of its thrust mass reserved for its mission already outside of Earth’s gravity well. I’d expect they’ll even be able to spin up the station some % to help a given launch or account for launch inertia loss.

  59. Your summary of the effective gravity at different distances from the centre is spot on.

    A rotating structure with 1g on the outer (“lower”) level can definitely have research areas located closer to the centre where they have 0.38 g (or any other desirable fraction) and hence do the required research on low g environments.

    There is still some debate about how big such things need to be before people will not feel the spinning and hence risk dizziness or other effects. But the current limits are thought to be fairly small.

    As for the stress loads involved, imagine a large multi-storey building that is all suspended from an overhead support. That gives a good picture of what sort of loads are involved.

  60. Actually, we only have two data points. 0 and 1 g.

    We simply do NOT know the effects of .1, .3, .5, .8 gees.

    Some partial gs might even be beneficial to our bodies!

    You know that over 80% of the world population will suffer from back pain sometimes in their lives? We are talking about back pain strong enough to seek doctors about it.

    Partial gravity may be beneficial to our spine and muscle system.

    The effects of age might be amenized, including appearance. Women would love to avoid sagging tits 🙂

    But seriously, even if some problems do arise (and not as strongly as if living in 0g) the problems may be smaller than the benefits.

    Or maybe not. We simply DO NOT KNOW.

  61. The article has photos of a massive 2001 style space station (actually bigger)

    And then when it shows the stages of construction, it shows a space station that would use what seems like Bigelow habitats.

    Can anyone explain? Clearly two different space station concepts.

  62. This article is another of Brian’s far-too-rushed ones to get anything right. The first three graphics, the ones in 3D, are of the company’s first design, which they finally realized was far too big and expensive to be constructed for who knows how many centuries. So they designed a much smaller one, consisting of a bunch of modules fastened together and held tight in a ring by stretched cables. It is illustrated in the last graphic. The data the article uses is from the large station, although the name used in the article, the Von Braun Station, is the name of the smaller version, for which the website doesn’t supply any statistics, only nice ideas and graphics. But, as far as I can see, even the smaller station is far too expensive and pointless to be built before there is a decently robust industrial base happening on the moon, with a lot of workers living there. The videos say it would essentially be used like a combination of the space station and a tourist hotel. Fine, but those uses could never pay for something so expensive. I hope I’m wrong, though. It looks nice.

  63. I’m an IT guy and scifi nerd, not an engineer so please let me know if I am wrong. If I’m not mistaken, on the outside of a spinning habitat (at the proper rotation speed) you could have 1G or higher, while at the center of the habitat would be 0G. In between there would a variable gravity gradient between those two points to perform these tests on, which do sound interesting to know and probably important. As long as the habitat is large enough you shouldn’t get dizzy living towards the center of the habitat, but I’m not sure how large the diameter would have to be to stop that from happening.

    I’m sure that the faster you spin the habitat would place higher stress in the structure, but I am sure they already calculated the stress loads if they have created this detailed of plans.

  64. ROI is highly overrated. After the haircut and chapter 7 sale by the original developer, the new owners will have a perfectly working AP1000 or space station.

  65. What are the limiting engineering constraints of generating 1g versus 0.38g?

    Who would want to vacation on a 1g station, live, sure, but not vacation. Og blows as well, Moon or Mars gravity is the sweet spot for a fun vacation.

  66. Staying inside the Van Allen belt means you don’t need a couple meters of dirt for radiation shielding.

  67. If you put a flywheel in the center, it could both spin up/down the wheel and store energy in case of emergency.
    I’m pretty sure 0 g fun will be provided!

  68. Had to look it up, but do remember. The ring is not around the star, but still very large. At an angle to the light, 24-h rotation -> very big! (I think that’s it).
    I DO NOT consider Island 3 O’Neill Cylinder to be the definition of “O’Neill”. It is rather a physics based approach to the problem. Bootstrapping, for example, starts very small, way long before Island 3, but is a key O’Neill concept. Musk has made the granularity of the starting steps much larger, but O’Neill still needs both ISRU and incremental growth starting now.
    The Musk launched rotating hab is a bigger step towards Space industrialization than would have been thought possible a short time ago. Get some dirt to those people so they can build stuff!
    (edit: perhaps Space Solar Power parts, starting with redirectors for Earth to Earth beaming, to balance what we now have already)

  69. Yea, but just like Bezos, you’re not planning on building an O’Neill.
    Best you can hope for is some minimally viable rotating structure in the foreseeable future.

    Personally, I’m a Banks orbital guy, it’s science fantasy but we’re still in the same boat even though an O’Neill is completely feasible. If you squint, unobtainium looks a lot like impossible.

  70. Station 488m/300km = 1,7 mRad

    Moon 3474km/400Mm = 8,7 mRad

    So at 1/5 moon diameter it would be very visible as a circle in the sky.

  71. Animal gestation and plant growth in partial gravity (no micro-gravity) is a complete unexplored area as of now.

    It makes sense to do it even with smaller space stations, and certainly could be done better with a big one.

  72. The only problem I have with the design is that there is no Zero G play area in the center of the hub. The benefits of sleeping in gravity and playing or science in micro gravity does not exist.

  73. 1. Is this a good design?
    For tourists, yes! See Al Globus for how tourism can certainly help get going.
    For Space? Need ISRU, probably lunar at first, to get going economically (tourists spend Earth money, they do not directly produce in Space!). Do ISRU ASAP for serious growth beyond tourism. Build this and much more with lunar dirt for best of both worlds.
    Let the market decide!

  74. 2. Is the time right to build a rotating station to acquire valuable, low-gravity, human physiology data?
    We have spent years worrying about 0 g in ISS. We will live in 1 g in Space. Partial g seems unneeded, unless you think Mars is a good place to live. Certainly way down the list of reasons to do this!

  75. As an American tax payer, you have my permission to use my taxes to fund 50% of the cost or 100% of a space station that is half that size as long as it houses the Space Force with some REALLY cool space fighters.

  76. ..nice, very “2001”..
    but instead to remain anchored to low Earth orbit, please move on! 
    At least to orbit the Moon! Would be easy to move cargos, due to low lunar gravity..

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