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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#144 - Space Habitats - Part 2

This week we discuss the split infinitive of Star Trek, Solar Sails, a further Intro to Space Habitats, talk about Scotland Space Ports, a rolling gantry in Kourou, new Spacesuits, new exoplanets near the Earth and loads more

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Start trek

The next generation version of the speech that began every episode of Star Trek except the two pilot episodes: "The Cage" and an episode called "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

50 years ago on Saturday!

August 4, 1969 - Mariner 7 - First photograph of Phobos from Space

The highest resolution Phobos image (frame 7F91) was taken by Mariner 7 on 4 August 1969 (MY 9, sol 451), revealing its size and shape approximately 22.5 kilometers long and 17.5 kilometers wide. Also, it was concluded that Phobos is a very dark object, with an albedo of 6.5%

Space News.

Scottish spaceport gets go-ahead from locals

Space Hub Sutherland gets the go-ahead from locals after Melness Crofters Estate (MCE) and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) signed a 75-year lease for the land

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex

“We welcome this very positive step forward. Orbex’s interactions with the local community in Tongue, Talmine and Melness have been overwhelmingly positive and we’re pleased that this strong, long term agreement is now in place. The launch capability will be a first in continental Europe, enlarging the UK’s share of the global space economy.”

More Euro Launch development

At Europe’s Spaceport the Ariane 6 mobile gantry, a 90 metre-high metallic structure built to house Ariane 6 underwent a 97 m rollout test last week to mimic prelaunch. As heavy as the Eiffel tower.

The Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, has successfully passed the final analysis review for its launch on a Soyuz rocket and is being shipped out to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, has given the go-ahead to begin fueling the Mars 2020 rover's Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG. The generator will power the rover and help keep it warm while exploring the Red Planet.

Collins Aerospace, ILC Dover unveil Next Generation Space Suit system prototype for future missions, huge boon to the nasa 2024 plan.

designed for future missions. The unveiling took place at a United Technologies event on Capitol Hill featuring the company’s past, present and future contributions to manned space exploration as part of a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission.

“Collaborating with an innovative company like Collins Aerospace is a perfect match,”

said Patty Stoll, division manager, Space Systems at ILC Dover. “Our depth of experience and knowledge of suit technology at ILC Dover joined with Collins’ life support capabilities makes us a formidable team. Together, we’re going back to the Moon and on to Mars.”

the Next Generation Space Suit system boasts a number of enhanced features, including:

  • New carbon dioxide removal technology that is perpetually regenerated while in use. This breakthrough technology enables extended-duration missions, reduces dependency on resupply and significantly reduces crew maintenance time.

  • Improved mobility joints and an ambulatory lower torso that will allow astronauts to traverse hazardous terrain, perform complex assembly tasks and closely examine, handle and collect geological samples from the surface.

  • Upper torso structural component with advanced sizing features to enable a larger anthropometric range of astronauts to have an optimal fit in as few as two sizes. The upper torso can be resized quickly without tools.

  • Significantly more efficient motors and electronics that reduce size and weight, and enable the incorporation of additional avionics and data capabilities into the suit.

  • Pathways to integrate parallel development of cutting-edge information technology and display systems that will provide astronauts with a digitally connected experience, including advanced displays and voice-activated controls, real-time access to data, and HD video recording and communication capabilities.

  • Open, evolvable architecture that allows the space suit to be easily upgraded with technologies that keep the suit state-of-the-art and aligned with mission objectives.

  • This is all funded by these people, and quite frankly it’s deeply impressive!!!

  • Considering what we’re learned about space suits over the last few months.

  • NASA has canceled the plan to have astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch (cook) first all-female spacewalk happening

  • The very expensive set of spacesuits used by NASA were designed in 1974 and first flown in 1981, 18 spacesuits were originally produced, and 11 remain in service (4 on the iss now). NASA performs maintenance on the ground,on each suit after six years on the station, or 25 EVAs, whichever comes first

Astronomers have discovered a three-planet solar system relatively close to Earth. One of the nearest and brightest M dwarf hosts observed to date TOI-270 73 light-years from Earth. A super-Earth-sized planet TOI-270 b (1.247 R⊕) and the sub-Neptune-sized planets TOI-270 c (2.42 ± 0.13 R⊕) and TOI-270 d (2.13 ± 0.12 R⊕).

The planets orbit close to a mean-motion resonant chain, with periods (3.36 days, 5.66 days and 11.38 days, respectively) near ratios of small integers (5:3 and 2:1). TOI-270 is a prime target for future studies because

  1. its near-resonance allows the detection of transit timing variations, enabling precise mass measurements and dynamical studies;

  2. its brightness enables independent radial-velocity mass measurements;

  3. the outer planets are ideal for atmospheric characterization via transmission spectroscopy; and

  4. the quietness of the star enables future searches for habitable zone planets. Altogether, very few systems with small, temperate exoplanets are as suitable for such complementary and detailed characterization as TOI-270.

Enabling Martian habitability with silica aerogel via the solid-state greenhouse effect

R. Wordsworth, L. Kerber & C. Cockell

Nature Astronomy (2019)


The low temperatures1,2 and high ultraviolet radiation levels3 at the surface of Mars today currently preclude the survival of life anywhere except perhaps in limited subsurface niches4. Several ideas for making the Martian surface more habitable have been put forward 5,6,7,8, but they all involve massive environmental modification that will be well beyond human capability for the foreseeable future9. Here, we present a new approach to this problem. We show that widespread regions of the surface of Mars could be made habitable to photosynthetic life in the future via a solid-state analogue to Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse effect. Specifically, we demonstrate via experiments and modelling that under Martian environmental conditions, a 2–3 cm-thick layer of silica aerogel will simultaneously transmit sufficient visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation and raise temperatures underneath it permanently to above the melting point of water, without the need for any internal heat source. Placing silica aerogel shields over sufficiently ice-rich regions of the Martian surface could therefore allow photosynthetic life to survive there with minimal subsequent intervention. This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification. In addition, it can be developed systematically, starting from minimal resources, and can be further tested in extreme environments on Earth today.

Since unfurling the spacecraft's silver solar sail last week, mission managers have been optimizing the way the spacecraft orients itself during solar sailing. After a few tweaks, LightSail 2 began raising its orbit around the Earth. In the past 4 days, the spacecraft has raised its orbital high point, or apogee, by about 2 kilometers. The mission team has confirmed the apogee increase can only be attributed to solar sailing, meaning LightSail 2 has successfully completed its primary goal of demonstrating flight by light for CubeSats.

"We're thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2," said LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts. "Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the Sun, something that’s never been done before. I'm enormously proud of this team. It's been a long road and we did it."

Space Habitats


Who what where when why

So over the next few week we shall be looking at answering some of these questions.

Last week we had an intro to some of the concepts, but I want to take a step back.

So first of all what are we going to talk about.


A space habitat or settlement what do we mean? Well let’s use a really basic definition. Permanent human habitation not on the planet Earth!


Could be vastly different things, we could mean on the surface of another planet, or a space station, or like last weeks guests suggest an evolving space ship that holds a colony.

So each week we’ll have a look at these concepts in greater detail.

  • Near-Earth space

  • The Moon

  • Lagrange points and other micro-g orbits

  • The inner planets, Mercury Venus and Mars

  • Asteroid belt

  • Moons of outer planets, Jupiter – Europa, Callisto and Ganymede and Saturn – Titan, Enceladus, and others

  • The Trans-Neptunian region,

  • Outside the Solar System

  • And a BIS favourite intersteller and Intergalactic travel


So are people looking into this sort of thing,

Oh my god yes;

  • The British Interplanetary Society has always looked into these things with great interest, including Alan Bond.

  • The National Space Society has a journal dedicated to the subject.

  • Old Bobby Zee at the Mars Society.

  • Asgardia And many more including Space Studies Institute a non-profit organization that was founded in 1977 by the late Princeton University Professor Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill. The stated mission is to "open the energy and material resources of space for human benefit within our lifetime". Recently back in the news thanks to bezos.

  • Both Bezos and Musk are more interested for the time being in the railroad rather than the town.

  • The Space Settlement Institute is a non-profit association founded to help promote the human colonization and settlement of outer space.


Stephen Hawking once said we must leave the planet if we are to survive.

Quite simply the continuation of the human race, the greatest insurance policy of all time.

To survive and thrive.

  • The suns expansion

  • Asteroid Strike? If there were a major collision today, not only would billions of people die, but recovery would be difficult since everyone would be affected. If an extensive branch of our civilization is in space before the next collision, the unaffected space settlements can provide aid, much as we offer help when disaster strikes another part of the world.


Ok this is the tricky bit!!!

Quick answer really hard and not anytime soon!!!

how many tonnes of material would a minimal space settlement require?

To give you some idea of cost a manhattan city block is estimated to weigh 462450 tonnes At the lowest launch cost by spaceX about 1.5 million pounds per tonne that would make at the launch of a small settlement about 660 billion dollars. Which is kind of lower than I was expecting.

So over the next few weeks we will look at some of the following ideas.

  • Materials

  • Energy

  • Life support

  • Radiation protection

  • Self-replication

  • Psychological adjustment

  • Population size

  • Money and currency

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