Every centrifugal space station design I have seen uses either a large curved material or an inflatable structure. There have been no large scale curved material construction in space and only one experiment on inflatable structures conducted.

One thing we can do on a regular basis is launch straight tubes into space and connect them together - its what the ISS is built of - so what if we design our centrifugal space station around this limitation?

Looking at the minimum number of tubes would yield a design like so:

centrifugal concept

There wouldn't be a center point that doesn't move so it would take some aiming to dock properly, but that's a problem for a computer. You move from one tube to another by connecting the ends of 2 tubes together - something we can do with docking ports already.

If you consider a much larger budget then you could do a design like this and be able to take advantage of the entire simulated "gravity gradient" in a beautiful "Peter Pan'd Pepperoni Pizza":

centrifugal concept

So if you are in a tube that is 1/3 of the way from the center, then you are simulating Mars gravity, if you are in a tube on the outside you are simulating earth gravity. You can even keep building out past earth gravity so that you could simulate gravity greater than earth! And you don't have to wait until it is finished to put it to work.

But thinking practically, how many Starships, or similar sized craft, would it take to make the circumference needed to produce artificial gravity?

(i understand that cylinders are weakest with forces applied in these directions ie i can stand on a soda can but if i stand on its side i will crush it, so maybe triangle tubes would be the best shape?)

  • $\begingroup$ Material & estimated volume? Earth launches are limited by payload size ~4.5 m and mass envelope. $\endgroup$ – mothman Oct 27 '19 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ So the size would be the smallest possible, where you can walk around without getting sick, right? And maybe hexagonal tubes would be advantageous. $\endgroup$ – SpaceBread Oct 27 '19 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ It depends on the rotational speed of your station $\endgroup$ – Antzi Oct 28 '19 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ The question cannot be answered as written. Spin gravity is driven by radius and rotation rate so a single starship can generate one G at high RPM. If you want a saner rotation speed you fly two and a long cable. Suggest you change question to be either 'is this pizza design good' with some measure of good, or 'how many Starship flights to lift an example ring station'. $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Oct 28 '19 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ The point about straight tubes being easier to ground assemble and launch than curved station segments. For a reasonably well worked example, see gatewayspaceport.com/von-braun-station $\endgroup$ – GremlinWranger Oct 28 '19 at 8:53

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