The task at hand for this studio was to design an economically viable space station. Initially, the station was to be programmed as a space hotel, but to make the station economically viable each student was to propose another use for the project that could feasibly create revenue. This was one of the most interesting/frustrating design studios I have taken because when it comes to designing architecture in near-zero gravity conventional design tactics just don’t work. To add to the stress the systems proposed also needed to be based on feasible technology, and we were reviewed by a panel consisting of more NASA and JPL engineers than architects. Still, it was a fun studio. If you’d like to find out more about the studio head on over to the studio website at Robotecture.
This studio was run a bit differently in that we were required to maintain a blog with updates on progress. Check out the development of this project here.
This project was on display at OBJCT Gallery in Claremont, CA and will be on display at NewSpace 2011, the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual conference at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, CA.
Inspired by the ideas of John S. Lewis, the EVSS will serve as a home base and processing center for a near-Earth asteroid miningprogram. Instead of the dead vacuum some people might assume outer space to be, our solar system is full of resources readilyavailable for our use, and some of the most viable targets for space mining are near-Earth asteroids. Eventually, the EVSS willserve as home base for a comprehensive asteroid mining program whose goal will be to eventually hollow out and colonize a near-Earth asteroid for outer space exploration. This goal, obviously, will have to be reached in phases.Initially, the only programmatic element that will be appended to the EVSS’s hotel programming will be a small (relatively) stationthat will serve as host for the first small drones that will be sent to mine the most valuable resource available on near-Earthasteroids, water ice. The drones would be sent out to melt and collect the water ice and return it for processing. An electrolyzingstation and refinery would be housed in the station to process the water brought back by the drone. The electrolyzing processwould separate the hydrogen and oxygen from the water; the hydrogen, along with some oxygen, would be refined for use asrocket fuel and the oxygen would be used in the EVSS by its inhabitants. Also, it goes without saying that some of the raw waterwould also be used by the inhabitants of the EVSS. This initial phase would also require docking facilities not only for the dronesbut for other spacecraft looking to purchase fuel as well.Besides water-ice, valuable metal ores are available on near-Earth asteroids. It is estimated that at least 10% of the mattercomprising near-Earth asteroids in naturally occurring stainless steel. Additionally, it has been postulated that a two-kilometer wideasteroid could contain more ore than has been mined in the entire history of civilization. The ability to mine for such valuableresources would require more advanced drones and bigger processing facilities on the EVSS, so this ability would be phasedin after the water mining program has been proven successful. A docking station for the new, most likely bigger, droneswould be added as well as a manner in which to store the raw material. This would likely be an holding cell outside ofthe core EVSS facility because the raw material would not need protection from the environment. A facility to process thismaterial would also need to be added, and this would begin to reflect the manufacturing capabilities that the EVSS wouldhave. Once established this system would be self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. The material mined could return and beused to make more drones for more mining and to expand the existing facilities. The majority of the material, of course,would be sold to other facilities in space either in their raw form or as manufactured components.