In-space fabrication and growth of affordable large interior rotating habitats

Anthony P. Longman, Robert E. Skelton, Manoranjan Majji, Joel Sercel, Craig Peterson, Jane Shevtsov, Muhao Chen, Raman Goyal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Humanity’s global impact on the environment, better understood now, but also greater, than in Gerard K. O’Neill’s time, suggests that it is appropriate to develop an affordable tool of space settlement. The negative effects of micro-gravity on Earth-based life evolved for 1-g, and limited planetary surface area, support O’Neill’s argument of the need for rotating space habitats large enough to preserve quality of life. The concept has added relevance, given that space based mining will soon provide access to materials, in the form of water and shielding, required for habitat development. How habitats may affordably be realized is thus a significant question, since cost and risk for direct assembly of 1-g structures at present appear prohibitive. (We note that “bola” or beaded habitats appear workable, but are not intended to address the quality of life issues central to space settlement.) Our NASA funded research has uncovered what is arguably the first direct pathway to space settlement with the potential to be affordable. The goal of our research was to find a design for a rotating tensegrity habitat structure capable of periodic self-similar expansion from a small seed structure, and of delivering a large and growing interior volume while maintaining life support and general habitability. Demonstrating the feasibility of this approach would reduce upfront risk for investors by orders of magnitude and make space habitat construction an affordable proposition. Although completion of such structures may require decades of work, they should be capable of being economically viable from the start. Capable of attaining 1-g at an early point in their growth arcs, they will mature into thriving space villages that will be secure both economically and in terms of food production. Each will have the capacity for zero gravity industrial production, and each will offer more than 90 acres of recreational woodland and lakes to a population that may number in the mid to high four figure. There are research efforts towards both lunar and asteroid mining that are currently in high gear, suggesting that space habitat development based on this model can occur much sooner than has been generally anticipated. Allocating resources to the development of this technology will both accelerate development of the cis-lunar economy, and greatly strengthen any incipient plans to plant a colony at Mars.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAccelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery Conference, ASCEND 2020
StatePublished - 2020
EventAccelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery Conference, ASCEND 2020 - Las Vegas, United States
Duration: Nov 16 2020Nov 19 2020

Publication series

NameAccelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery Conference, ASCEND 2020


ConferenceAccelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery Conference, ASCEND 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLas Vegas

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The MITRE Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Aerospace Engineering


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