Archive for the ‘Space Exploration’ Category


But but but – that was my idea

October 13, 2009

Long ago, when I was young and some chap was building a big wooden ship to help cope with catastrophic climate change, I had two excellently brilliant ideas that would have made me millions if only I could persuade people to invest in them: Inflatable Space Stations, and Unpressurised Space Suits. For some reason this persuasion was quite tricky.

Inflatable Space Stations

The inflatable space stations would be made from double-layer sausage shaped cloth capsules, inflated by injecting some kind of expanding foam (‘no more big gaps’) into the double layer.

This would save cargo space in the launch vehicle (and so weight, in the fairings), and by producing many of these with standard bayonet fittings (or similar) at each end and at standard intervals around the side, you get economies of scale while building any configuration of space station you liked.

Those bayonet fittings would include standard cabling and, say, a small processing and hub node.

The set foam would provide some protection against dust and small impacts. It would certainly insulate against heat loss and/or gain.

With the right expanding goo it might even help protect against radiation, though it’s worth bearing in mind that’s mostly based on weight, and so we’re not likely to get overall weight savings for some spaces. It may well be that normal working & living spaces remain metal or similar, and the inflatable sausages are used for more occasional use or storage spaces, or as a framework to bolt shields on to.

Similar techniques could be used for lunar or asteroid pimple habitats, which once set could be reinforced with some kind of cement made from the local rock.

The big advantage is size; large spaces can be created using this approach that can’t practically be launched.

And since then NASA have been looking at some inflatable habitats and a private company has even launched two scale models.

They must have heard.

Unpressurised Space Suits

The unpressurised space suits were based around the idea that all we need is some pressure on the skin to act a bit like the atmosphere, rather than actually gas pressure. A kind of stretched compression body bandage would do; around the lungs particularly so that the occupant can breath out.

This could mean we could reduce the bulkiness of existing suits largely caused by the special joints required to keep internal volumes equal, so you can make the joints bend.

It would also be more robust, as a puncture would result in only local bruising problems, rather than complete decompression, asphyxiation and death. Or more heavy and complicated systems for partitioning a suit.

There are still problems with heating and cooling, but a metal mesh or a system of tubes embedded in the material can transfer heat around.

Hygene is a problem anyway, and the suit needs either a washable lining, or presumably you have a couple of suits and hang one, inside out, on the washing line outside the space station and let them boil off into the vacuum.

And it seems folks are building just such suits:


Which is fine, they must have overhead me in the pub all those years ago, and thought “What a good idea”. I can continue to have Great Ideas without having to go through all that trouble of working out how – or if – they can work..

You can thank me later.