Monday, October 25, 2010

Seems Like it's Been Forever...

Well, school's been running me pretty ragged lately, so I haven't had time to sit down and write down the thoughts I've had the last week or so, which I'd like to rectify . However, there's a couple different topics, so let's start with the one that caught my interest most recently: The ISS just surpassed the Mir record to take the top spot on longest  uninterrupted human presence in space. It turns ten years old in a week or so at the start of November. A neat series of desktop images of the ISS assembly sequence up until 7-15-2009 is here, but reflecting on these images made me remember something.

Despite now being the oldest manned object in space and all its scientific value so far, the ISS isn't done yet. There's still the Permanent Multipurpose Module, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and at least one more Russian module, the Multipurpose Laboratory Module. It's been operated for almost ten years, and it's only just now almost done. That's...incredible. Now admittedly, some of those delays haven't been the fault of the ISS, but rather of the Shuttle, and the modularized design of ISS means that it's been a capable scientific platform even while not being completed, but it's still kind of incredible that it's not quite finished yet.

It's especially incredible to me because of a video I saw the other day of the Bigelow Aerospace booth at the International Symposium on Private and Commercial Spaceflight. It's a neat video, showing some nice physical models of the first station they're currently working on, based off two Sundancer modules, one BA 330, and a propulsion/docking node. There's also cutaways of the Sundancer and BA 330, and a cutaway of a Bigelow module sized for a 100 ton 8-m launch vehicle coming in at 2,100 cubic meters, and the booth manager mentions a 70-ton 8-m-launch-diameter module sized at 1150 cubic meters. Both of these HLV-sized modules (which happen to fit well onto a J246 or J130 launch vehicle like SLS may resemble) would exceed ISS by a significant margin in terms of volume, and do so with a single launch.

BA 2100 (100-ton, 8 m fairing, 2100 cubic meters)
What's really interesting to me is that with the kind of diameter this module type could have (about 16 m), it's enough of a spin radius that a full-sized centrifuge creating a significant fraction (20%-80%) of Earth's gravity is possible without requiring spin rates that are too extreme. Thus, the living section of the station could be in spin gravity, with the labs and mechanical spaces in zero-g, and the whole thing inside the pressure barrier of the module. The hub could be pre-installed as part of the rigid core along with bearings and utility connections to the fixed portion of the station, with the rim/floor and the spokes attached to the hub to complete the assembly as part of fitting out the unit once it was inflated on-orbit. Such a centrifuge could provide increased crew comfort and enable research into the effects of life at different gravitational levels over time.

I have more on the big list of Things I Want to Talk About, but I think I'm done for now. As a closer, I offer a Sesame Street segment featuring my favorite JAXAnout, Soichi Noguchi. I'm not sure when this was filmed exactly, it must have been before his departure from the station back in June, but it appears to have aired fairly recently. Regardless, it made me smile. I used to watch Sesame Street all the time when I was little, I always enjoyed it, and I hope the kids watching it now got a kick out of this bit.

Additionally, I'm going to once again recommend checking out the series of images of the ISS under assembly that I mentioned up above. They can be found here, and it's really interesting to see how the station has grown and changed over the years.

No comments:

Post a Comment