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Triangle Space Station

Posted by: skyhigh - Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:48 am
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Triangle Space Station 
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Post Triangle Space Station   Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:48 am
Maybe a year ago I saw an IMAX presentation of the space station in 3D. I think it was put together by JPL. Anyways, it was very cool. I don't know anything about space, or space design, but a few months back I read an article about the passing of a space visionary named Oliver Harwood. The journalist was praising his design idea, and by the sound of it, it made a lot of intuitive sense to me.

Essentially (if I understood correcly) the idea was to use the components of the space station to create areas of geometric space. By putting together the parts into an equilateral triangle, you could build outwards. First it would be just a triangle. Then it would turn into a 3D triangle. All of a sudden the tubes could create an enclosed space. You could then seal off the outside (it was described as toothpicks formed into a 3 dimensional triangle, then wrapped in cellophane). Voila, you have your existing tubular space, and now more space by the design.

This just made so much sense to me. Space is so difficult to get in space. So by positioning the elements of the space station to create room, you get more bang for your buck. What are the drawbacks of this? It makes intuitive sense to me, and I can't think of any reason they wouldn't have gone for it (except maybe it wouldn't look impressive as a floating triangle in space).


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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 12:11 pm
You got me thinking - the structure that gives most volume per building material is a sphere. The best way to build a spherical construct is to build a geodesic sphere, as suggested by Dr. Buckminster Fuller (for whom fullerene is named). The triangle, which is the basic component of the geodesic sphere, is the strongest structural shape, and as such can be subjected to a lot more stress than what might otherwise be possible. The tetrahedron (3d triangle) is an extension of this, being made up of four equilateral triangles (but with only 6 edges). In fact, the tetrahedron is the smallest, lowest-resolution geodesic sphere possible. :)

Now such a structure might then be expanded into larger geometric shapes, while retaining their internal strength. A tetrahedron is exactly one twentieth part of an icosahedron (20-sided die, for those who play D&D out there :) ), and this would be a logical upgrade for the structure. Build an extra tetrahedron on one side of it, then one on the other side, keeping the mass centre as unmoved as possible. The end result is an icosahedral station with 20 times the size of the original tetrahedral station, and a very strong structure, indeed.

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Post Yeah, thats the idea   Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 1:54 pm
They had mentioned that an equilateral triangle is the strongest shape. And the idea was to create a space station design that could easily be expanded as the needs arise in a systematic manner. There was even mention of Buckminster Fuller. I think it sounds like a good idea.


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Post Re: Triangle Space Station   Posted on: Fri Oct 29, 2004 7:03 pm
skyhigh wrote:
What are the drawbacks of this? It makes intuitive sense to me, and I can't think of any reason they wouldn't have gone for it (except maybe it wouldn't look impressive as a floating triangle in space).


It is a good idea. One reason it hasen't been done yet is basically risk aversion of government space agencies. The design is a tetrahedron wrapped in cellophane as you put it. What happens if the cellophane is punctured or tears? The entire central volume could lose it's air to space. Of course, there are ways to deal with this risk. You could have multiple cellophane chambers one inside the other, you could make astronauts wear spacesuits when in this part of the station.

NASA investigated inflatible space station modules, and basically shelved the idea because they want to prove beyond a doubt that everything will work perfectly the first time before they try something new. Of course you can't do that. You need a risk posture that says, "when (not if) something goes wrong we can contain the damage and provide an escape route for any humans involved."


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Post Synergy   Posted on: Sat Oct 30, 2004 12:20 am
I can see the problems if there was a leak. However, as you pointed out there are safety precautions. Even beyond that, the space could be used for simply storage. For instance, right now the space station apparently is filling up with garbage because they don't have enough space (since the shuttles have been grounded and can't bring it back).

Another thing I was thinking about today. I started to draw the shapes and realized that as the structure grows the cost for additional space goes down. For instance, at first you need to put 6 tubes in space to create the first 3D triangle. To create the second triangle only requires an additional 3 tubes to double the useable space. Then as more triangles are applied it soon turns into only 2 tubes (as triangles create two sides of a new one). And finally towards the end only 1 additional tube. So that the actual cost for available space goes down as you grow the structure.

I think its a really interesting idea for a space station.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:30 am
What you are describing is valid for each increase of a volume - regardless of the geometrical figure. Some figures provide mor decreases of cots than others.

You are on the right way - in economics the phenomenon you describe is considered to be a special kind of economies of scale.

The special problem of these economies is that they are working really at larger or bigger scales only. They are caused by the division of the costs of scale (depreciation, maintenance etc.) by larger amounts of output, use, products etc..

But if there is noone who makes use of the scale or if there are no prodcuts produced by the scale and bought by customers then there are costs only - this will cause bankruptcy of the owner.

So it may be - and I suppose it's really the reason - that there is no sufficeint use of the scale of the structure to be expected by NASA.

But thsi might change when there is a winner of the America's Space Prize one day and a commercial success of Nautilus. Perhaps Bigelow or another entrepreneur is going to buid the structure you are discussing then, The chances are depending on the groowth of orbital tourism and guests of orbital hotels - the amount of growth and how long the growth is expected to be lasting.

Nautilus might be a first step to the 3D-triangle-technology.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 10, 2005 7:03 pm
I would loved to have seen External Tanks modified in orbit.

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