Science & Nature

Kilometer Structures in Space

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Zac Manchester is working on a phase 2 NASA NIAC (advanced innovation) study to create kilometer sized structures in space that will fit in one rocket payload.

Zac Manchester worked on Breakthrough Starshot which is trying to get a laser pushed solar sail to another star system. (aka 4+ light years in a human lifetime). Here is a video where Zac talks about breakthrough Starshot.

The Kilometer Structures in Space Using Mechanical Metametarials

Concepts for rotating space habitats as a means for generating artificial gravity date back more than a century. However, humans suffer discomfort from exposure to rotation rates as low as 3 RPM. To produce artificial gravity near 1g at rotation rates of 1-2 RPM, a kilometer-scale structure is needed.

The core of Zac’s solution is a high-expansion-ratio deployable structure (HERDS) built from mechanical metamaterials.

Specifically, they exploit two kinematic discoveries made in the last 5 years: shearing auxetics and branched scissor mechanisms. They intend to produce tube structures with an unprecedented 150x expansion ratio.

The Phase I NIAC study has demonstrated the viability of this approach and pointed us to several technical problems that must be addressed in Phase II.

The key technical work in Phase II will be focused on four specific thrusts:

1) modeling and understanding the complex deployment dynamics of our expanding hierarchical structure in detail;

2) mitigating jamming during deployment in the presence of manufacturing errors and external disturbances using simulation and design optimization;

3) rapid prototyping and hardware-based design iteration to calibrate models and evaluate sub-system components; and

4) experimental validation of meter-scale prototypes with thousands of links to demonstrate deployment without jamming and high expansion ratios.

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In the near term, such structures would make sustained human habitation in cislunar space.

In the medium-to-longer term, such structures will be critical to sustaining humans in deep space. Finally, large structures will also advance astronomy by supporting large-scale telescope arrays.

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