Orbital Assembly Building Parts to Eventually Scale to Large Rotating Space Stations

Orbital Assembly Corp. (OAC) is planning a virtual media event on Friday, January 29 from 1-2 pm PST / 4-5 pm EST. OAC was established in September 2019 as the world’s first large-scale space construction company and has generated a considerable online following since.They have widely viewed videos depicting Voyager Station, a large rotating habitat designed to mitigate deleterious health and physiological effects of microgravity, while also revolutionizing space travel and the commercial space sector.

On Dec. 31, they released a new video apprising people of their current progress.

They plan to make a D-Star construction working proof of concept for building large structures in space. They plan to progress to a large rotating frame where Astronauts could go and stay healthier with centrifical force to simulate gravity at night.

They have changed to a 5 meter access tube instead of 3 meter tube and created a system for space walking on the inner part of the ring.

SOURCES – Orbital Assembly
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

57 thoughts on “Orbital Assembly Building Parts to Eventually Scale to Large Rotating Space Stations”

  1. What advantages do you expect to see over just getting the job done faster with modules made on and launched from Earth?

    I do think we'll eventually be building stuff on orbit; but stuff that can be planned well in advance will probably continue to be made on Earth for quite a while. It'll be the oversights and mistakes that need fixing fast that'll push space manufacturing capacity ahead, by creating demand to have the tools and materials for that available on site.

  2. When you're building a space station that could use tens of these, you get into the advantages of mass production.

    Further, you could see them designed so that the entire portion that's shipped back to Earth practically has quick disconnects. The entire engine cluster would, after all, fit within the cargo hold of a Starship. It doesn't have to be disassembled in detail. It just has to be demounted.

  3. If we need to learn to do those things before we get production of the materials in space, we could just launch the materials to practice on.

    When will the effort of disassembling rockets on orbit and shipping the engines back and building a new rocket that re-uses those engines and making use of fuel tanks' on-orbit mass… be less than just safely landing the rocket and shortly sending it up again with another payload?

    Maybe if rocket construction becomes super fast and cheap, so that fuel consumption becomes the major launch cost.

  4. I could see leaving some ships in orbit as fuel depots, since reconfiguration for that should be modest. The cargo volume could be configured on Earth to support extra fuel storage, cryogenic fuel regeneration, and maybe conversion of lunar water to cryogenic fuels.

    But for human habitation – at least for the next decade or so – it seems more practical to deliver modules custom designed for that purpose. Modules the Starship could deliver might be able to inflate to provide close to the volume of a full starship anyhow.

    Otherwise humans in clumsy and exhausting spacesuits would have to carefully remove and pack the massive engines to safely ship them back, and do enough of a refit to fully seal and pressurize the fuel tanks so crews could work inside to make it suitable for something other than storing stuff that isn't sensitive to high thermal variation.

  5. I think you're misinterpreting my post. I'm talking about making money while actually living in LEO, i.e. aboard a space station. Everyone who makes money off of those satellites is on the surface of the Earth.

    My larger point is that folks are too readily drinking the space cool aid. Everyone seems to think that all we have to do is build a station in earth orbit or a "city" on Mars and it will be economically viable. I have yet to hear anyone present a clear business model on how one does that. It reminds me of "If you build it, they will come" . If they can't earn a living, then "no, they wont".

  6. Launch costs have a lot to do with the cost of space equipment. Launch is expensive so everything has to mass as little as possible. Because sending up replacement parts is expensive, all that lightweight stuff also has to be extremely robust. That takes some expensive engineering, but it's fine because with launch so expensive, it doesn't change things that much to spend lots of money on the cargo.

    Cheap high-volume launch changes everything. Now you can throw tons of steel into orbit at low cost, and if a noncritical part breaks then a replacement doesn't cost much either.

    As for Dream Chaser, if it costs that much then that does seem like the wrong way to go. Dock one Starship in the middle and you're all set, it won't cost anywhere near ten billion. According to Musk they might even get it down to five million, but he could be off by quite a bit without changing the picture all that much.

  7. Interesting that they modified the truss to have a walking deck. If that deck was big enough, might it be useful as a training area for mars EVA ops?

  8. Well, technically you can have ISRU in LEO doing atmosphere scooping to collect nitrogen/oxygen propellant on orbit, such as the old PROFAC concept. Some plasma thruster types can accept nitrogen.

  9. Money is currently made in LEO via communications satellites. And (very soon) by providing internet services.

    As providing internet services is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries, it isn't unreasonable to guess that this could be lucrative if done from orbit.

    A more important question is: what is the use of earning tax free money in orbit if the only thing you can spend it on is buying your competitors' internet services? To spend it on anything else, you'll need to bring it down to earth, which puts you back in the clutches of Mr Taxman.

  10. ISRU is a planet chauvinist term, if "at the site" is taken at face value. It draws the mind to a place such a planet surface where there is R to U, and that is *where* it is done. I like In Space Resource Use/In Space Mfg ISRU/ISM much better, but something else would be nice. So, while there is no R in LEO, the idea is ISM, specifically 0 g, in LEO using lunar or asteroid R. The big issue is that for stuff like mining and mfg, *the surface of a planet is not the right place*. Now, we do start in LEO for the exact reason you mention, that everything starts with an Earth launch. As we expand the amount of material processed, we move closer to the Moon, as we have stuff for shielding. These guys are clearly talking scales that exceed the R on Earth to be launched, and the mfg capacity of 1 g processes. It is more than the transportation, it is the 0 g and free sunlight and new R.

    So the big question now is whether the refuel part of the Halo lunar Gateway(different one!) will get the fuel from a factory on the Moon, or will rego be brought up and fuel extracted in 0 g? Will stuff be mfg on the Moon? With cranes and stuff? They have to joking!

  11. What you say is true, but it's not all the truth.

    The Starship payload to LEO is about 100 metric tons. Its dry mass, 120 metric tons.

    So, a launch can put 100 tons of dedicated habitat in orbit, but your Starship designed to be a habitat could be 220 metric tons.

    Then you could send the engines back to Earth for reuse on the return flight of a regular Starship. And they ARE the expensive part of the ship. The rest of it is just SS weldment. Cheaper even than the regular one, because it doesn't need the fancy actuated wings or landing legs, it's only going up.

    We're not talking a regular Starship here, we're talking about one specifically intended to end up as a habitat.

  12. I know that you know this but there is no ISRU in LEO.

    LEO does have the best access to Earth and all its refined goods that could be sent up on a few days notice and that is definitely something.

  13. But as with most space equipment, the cost of the thing itself would be huge.

    How much would it cost to build this thing, parallel to the ground, here on Earth?

    The modules need to be resistant to micrometeorites. And leaking atmosphere. You need vast life support systems. Computers. Kitchens. Bedrooms.

    Just all those DreamChaser "escape pods" will cost what, 10 billion dollars?

  14. Using Starships for permanent space installation components breaks their launch price model, and leaves you with a bunch of rocket engines and irrelevant plumbing to deal with in order to make them useful, and even once stripped you'll need to completely refit them in space with extremely expensive labor.

    Better to take advantage of Starship's launch economies of scale to launch exactly the components you need.

  15. I don't mind the size. Now, what I would like to see is a blanket surrounding the modules so that any spacewalker doesn't need a tether–he would be between layers.

  16. Currently the only credible enterprise working on mass producing stuff suitable for constructing large rotating space stations is SpaceX. They’re setting up to build 100 starships a year and could build more if there is demand. A Starship variant could self deploy as a module for a large SpaceStation. The tanks could be built to convert into more hab space. The Raptors could be unbolted and shipped back to earth. This variant could just be a stretched cylinder with a reusable nosecone to produce optimal hab volume.

    The large rotating space station design would be attaching these Starship hab modules together in a ring.

    Dream Chaser isn’t designed to be mass produced or low cost and costs more than Starship per copy despite being tiny by comparison.

  17. The station masses 2,418 metric tons. At the ultimate Starship cost of $2M per launch, assuming just a bit over 100 tons per launch, that's $48M to launch everything, plus the cost to launch construction equipment, and all multiplied by whatever margin SpaceX decides to charge. Say $100M in launch cost, for a station with about a 400-person capacity.

    If they're able to charge tourists or scientists $50K per week and get full occupancy, their revenue will be a billion dollars annually.


  18. No need for that. It doesn't mass all that much, at Starship costs they might as well just launch it instead of waiting decades for space mining/refining/manufacturing to get far enough along.

  19. Space solar cost depends on the satellite design. The old monolithic designs from the 1970s would have been absurdly expensive. Newer designs like SPS-Alpha use a large number of identical mass-produced parts that self-assemble in orbit, and with Starship launch costs look pretty competitive.

  20. I've also heard that the steering was done as an honor to an old captn who was used to sailing ships, which rig the wheel to work in the opposite way. His initial reaction was backwards, just enuf to scrape.

  21. The internal baffles between the water tight compartments didn't go all the way to the top. They stopped just above the water line. 

    Enough compartments filled from the original breach, that the ship listed in the water, bringing the tops of the baffles below the waterline, and then the next row of compartments filled.

    If they'd taken into account the possibility of listing, and closed the tops of the water tight compartments, the ship might not have sunk, and it certainly would have taken a lot longer, providing enough time for rescue.

  22. Yes, a 3-body system could be made stable in many configurations.
    Maybe the third body can be a combined fuel depot, some solar panels, communication hub and spools of wire for the tethers.
    Such hubs can be mass produced and would be popular destinations for more than one reason. Also good to bring on long trips to Mars and beyond. Seems more flexible than a big rigid station at this point in time.

  23. He had me until he started talking about space based solar power. A serious look at the cost was looked at and they found that even if you reduce launch costs to zero it is still to costly. This guy needs to show customers with MOAs or actual costs for tourists with agreements with space X.

  24. Well, it was modular, in that only flooding multiple separate compartments would sink it. Long seam of inferior grade rivets plus iceberg equals surprise.

  25. Yes, they have them as escape mostly, which would be helped by rotation. They would come in to the middle, then be moved with wires to position. Or, bigger ships too into the middle.

  26. No, the guys who designed the Titanic didn't think it really needed lifeboats. They didn't make it modular so that it would break up into lifeboats.

  27. Nope, this is rotating, remember? Docking like that to a rotating station would be absurdly expensive in terms of delta V, as well as a bit of a piloting nightmare.

  28. What's needed, I gather, is consistent rotation at a reasonably low RPM to avoid nausea from Coriolis effects in your inner ear when you turn your head.

    A bolo could have two different gravities, by making one end substantially heavier than the other. Though the more efficient approach is to use three weights, one of which could be just a cargo fairing or something like that.

  29. Yes, two tethered starships and we are already there for a small price.
    I wonder what level of geometrical symmetry is needed to avoid nausea in such a rotating system. A balancing system may turn out to be needed.
    Starship is already equipped for fuel transfer so balancing with fuel is the obvious solution.

  30. Yeah, seriously. The Empire NEVER would have found those plans if this company had been building the rebel starships.

    "She must have hidden the plans in the esca– … Oh… oh no."

  31. Our government has my permission to use my tax dollars to build the first two. One for the Space Force to use to train and function in space. One for private industry to be able to reacclimate commercial astronauts to gravity after long periods of microgravity without having to return all the way to earth. Hopefully that will alleviate all the health issues they suffer from.

  32. Forget low cost LEO, dont be too surprised if everyone's pet space dreams turns out to not make economic sense, even if launch costs were free.


  33. Forget shipping inflatable modules, the $ is in being able to 3D print modules from bulk materials brought up in powdered form.

  34. Not really, while LEO has no ISRU beyond solar power it does have the best access to Earth that you can have while still being off the Earth.

  35. Perhaps the modules are easily cut loose, as they are also the free floaters. The little Dream Chasers may be the actual tourist/passenger craft. Big dock in center too.

  36. If one of the main, if not THE main, purposes of ISS were not to see how to survive the trip to Mars, this would have been (or Brett's bolo) one of the first projects for LEO. The assumption that we will live on Mars has kept us from learning how to live in Space, our future home. Add ISRU to this and it looks like a good first step. The raw panel parts look pretty simple.

  37. With the costs to orbit about to decrease massively assuming Starship success, a rotating tourist hotel would seem economically viable to me. Surely one of the big hotel chains might be interested?? I'd spend all my savings on it if I had the chance…..

  38. The case for ISRU/ISM is independent of launch costs. Cheap launch makes it faster, but those who do ISRU will quickly outgrow the launchers.

  39. As I mentioned above, I'd prefer that the individual modules be capable of cutting loose, despinning, and surviving some decent period of time flying independently. No evac needed unless you're in the module that's causing the problem, because the modules are the escape capsules; Escape to safe orbit, not ground. An ocean liner's lifeboats don't get you to your destination in an emergency, they just let you survive until somebody comes for you.

    Also, capsules capable of orbital reentry should not be obviously intended for reuse if they are "emergency" capsules, as they're over designed for the purpose. Anything capable of reuse would be more economically kept in service, and single reentry capsules could be quite a bit cheaper.

  40. Only if you're willing to vacation there while knowing there isn't a lifeboat seat for you if a black swan occurs.

    It's actually a frequent comment of this revised plan.

  41. We need something like this, but I have reservations about the proposed design. Minimum viable product is too big, you should start out with a bolo. That allows you to easily test more than one acceleration at once, one end at lunar gravity, one at Martian, say. Still, I understand they want to demonstrate their truss builder, and a bolo hardly needs trusses.

    Also, shouldn't such a station have a stationary spar down the center for any items which need to not be spinning?

    I have other minor quibbles, such as the station illustration lacking solar panels and radiators.

    I would suggest that the rotational axis be pointed to the Sun, (Precessing once a year is not hard.) then you could hang solar panels "underneath" the modules, with radiators in their shadows.

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