Space Architecture

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stream of Consciousness Web Crawl 13 August 2006

As these things usually begin, I have a topic in mind that I'm curious about. In this case, long-term group isolation. Here's what I found:

The Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) conducted a study of group isolation for 240 days. I'm having trouble finding the results of this study. If anyone has info, or a link, that would be great!

An excellent article [PDF] by Lawrence A. Palinkas that overviews experiences in the Antarctic, MIR, and sea explorations. Essentially, the experiences of people who are in isolated groups depends heavily on the characters in the group, the environment around them, and communication with the outside world. Note that by "isolation", I mean physical isolation. Telephones and e-mail allow a kind of social relation, albeit without face-to-face contact.

I still think that it would behoove NASA, Russia, somebody, to put people in a 900-day long isolation setup. The more set-ups, the better. If there is a "cocktail" of human characteristics that are more likely to bring mission success than not, then that should be known!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Stream of Consciousness Web Crawl 12 August 2006

I'm currently reading Spacecraft Systems Design and Operations. I'm trying to find a website that has the book's information, as it is apparently not sold through Amazon. Strange, as the other textbooks that are cited in the SICSA slide shows are sold through Amazon. Please note that as of Saturday 12 August 2006, the SICSA website is down. Anyways, while googling the title of the book, found some interesting websites:

ASTE 520: Spacecraft System Design, offered through the Astronauts and Space Technology Division at the University of Southern California. Based on the syllabus(?) [PDF], this course looks like the lecture version of the book that I'm currently reading! The course looks necessary for degree programs in Astronautical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering.

What's the difference between Astronautical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering? According to the University of Southern California's Astronautics and Space Technology Division About page on their website, "Astronautics is the art or science of designing, building, and operating space vehicles (satellites, probes, and manned spaceships) for space exploration and applications."

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics say that essentially Astronautics focuses on spacecraft, where as Aeronautics focuses on airplanes, helicopters, etc. A merger of the two would be Aerospace. Link.

Now that I know that there is such a thing as Astronautical Engineering, I can look up universities that offer such a program! Let's see the first ten that pop up on Google's return list:

Instanbul Technical University (don't know why they're the first one to pop up), Purdue, Capitol College, MIT, University of Washington, Ohio State, Universite of Southern California, Shanghai Jiaotong University (this is on the fourth page of Google's results...apparently Astronautical Engineering is not a popular name), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

OK, so most universities have Aerospace programs, not just a dedicated Astronautical program. I skipped over the websites that were from the Navy, etc. Not willing (yet) to join the military to get into spacecraft design. Weird that two universities, that were not in the USA, came back. Both had pages in English, so people in Turkey and China went out of their way to create English pages. Anyways, so dedicated Astronautical Engineering programs are not as common as general Aerospace Engineering programs. That said, the universities that I got back look top-notch: MIT, Purdue, etc.

Well, that just about ends it for today's web crawl! See you later!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Orion Project

Found the coolest launch method ever. Imagine going to space, riding on the backs of hundreds of nuclear bombs! A project, named Orion, ran from 1957 - 1964. The 1963 Test Ban Treaty heralded its demise.

Could such a project be resurrected? Maybe, if the bombs were to be detonated above the magnetosphere. The biggest problem with the system under the Orion Project is the fallout from radiation, and the electro-magnetic pulse. EMP was dramatically, maybe poorly, portrayed in a certain movie about the greater Kansas City area getting nuked.

Notwithstanding the undesirable health effects of radiation, international law, and a general global alarm if a whole lot of bombs were to go off in succession, this kind of propulsion system would be really handy to get off earth quickly.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Crew Exploration Vehicle

While browsing for the latest information on Space Human Factors, I came across this article. Some pertinent quotes:

"Although the vehicle and cockpit will be highly automated, one thing we really want to do is make sure this is a 'crew-centered' and designed cockpit--something astronauts want to get in, rather than have to get in and [be] forced to use what non-astronauts have laid out for them," Fox says.

The initial cockpit design concepts are being roughed out based on assumptions that can only become facts once a CEV winning contractor and its overall spacecraft design is selected in August.

"It is a bit of an unusual and difficult time," Mastracchio says. "We are trying to keep it fair and not provide cockpit information to one contractor over the other, while at the same time making sure one contractor's concepts are also kept separate from the other."

If you ever seen a schematic of how astronauts fit into the Shuttle or Soyuz, one gets the impression that the astronauts have been "inserted" into the machines as if they were components. Now, when you get into your car, are you "jumping in" or "inserting yourself"? More room for the astronauts, however, can meen more surface area, which means more material, and thus more weight. Hence, one might attempt to reduce the machinery inside the cockpit.

All of the cockpit issues involve complex design tradeoffs that will not be fully defined until many iterations are done, Mastracchio says. They include seemingly simple basics that play into much more complex internal layout details that must be balanced, such as who sits where, how windows will be placed and how dockings will be flown using what type of window, television and computer display configurations.

Seating and stowage ties directly into the type of lightweight pressure suits that will be worn during launch and reentry. And the cockpit philosophy on manual piloting and auto system tradeoffs are directly connected to choices about the computer screen design and software display formats for conveying information to the crew.

One critical matter will be the extent of automatic rendezvous and docking. In the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs, those have been piloted operations. CEV automatic rendezvous and docking is baselined, but with at least full manual intervention capability. How that will manifest itself in CEV test flights and routine operations is yet to be determined, however, Fox says.

Every little decision that is made has a clear impact on what choices on has later on! In our student work, some students had trouble coming to grips with the fact that modules have a finite, volumetric size. Finite, as in, you can't make the launch shroud any bigger. And, volumetric, which means that there is more than just "floor", as architecture students are accustomed to.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Storage Tubes Explained

Earlier this past "week", I posted a message, showing some pictures of storage tubes on a CTM.

You deserve an explanation.

The storage tube idea came from a visit to a certain Swedish department store, in particular, the one on I-10 near Silber Rd. Storage is a big deal on manned spacecraft, due to obvious mass constraints. On longer-term trips, personalization and personal space becomes very important as well. A 1997 book by the Committee on Advanced Technology for Human Support in Space at National Research Council, entitled Advanced Technology for Human Support in Space, says that there is no experience with multi-year isolation (beyond 400 days or so) of groups. I don't think that anyones knows enough about long-term group isolation in confined spaces to determine compatabilities of six homogeneous people (six American males of similar age, temperament, physicality, social/economic/political history) or heterogeneous people (six people of differing nations, ages, tempers, physical abilities, social groups, income levels, and political feelings).

NPR has done a series on isolation in high-security prisons. I found the link at the Staff Psychologist Blog. The series focuses on inviduals who spent years in isolation. This is in contrast to what is likely to happen on a trip to Mars, where 4 to 6 individuals will spend a finite time in space. Prisoners are by themselves, for an indefinite amount of time. Nonetheless, the story was fascinating for its implications. Decline in cognitive activity, sociability, and even in speech, were noted. Some prisoners became severely mentally ill. Others, when released into the public, became stuck in a rut of daily activities. For example, one person frequently just drove aimlessly in his car after work. He didn't like interacting with children, or many other people. He couldn't stand to watch TV anymore, after spending years doing just that -- watching TV in his cell.

I hope that no astronauts will have the severe mental baggage that many prisoners have, though the stuck-in-a-rut symptoms, and avoidance of things that they couldn't have (children) and had in excess (TV), are fascinating.

What a load of problems to avoid!

Since no one had any definitive answers, I decided to use my own experience in isolation in groups. Namely, spending the Fall 2000 and Spring and Fall 2003 semesters living in a dorm, and my years in architecture studio.

Those of you who have lived in dorms know what I'm talking about. Needless to say, I put up on the walls as much Chris Loyd as I could possibly do. That freaked out my roommates a bit, to have the other half of a 200 sq ft room covered in my stuff, but hey, it was my side of the room! Architecture school was a bit different, where I had work to distract me, as well as a computer much of the time. To enclose my space with doors to my locker, and cardboard, and watch a movie or something, was a Good Thing.

Take the above, and add mass constraints. The visit to Ikea showed flexible fabric cylinders in which one could stuff clothes, stuffed animals, etc. I thought that a slightly more sturdy version, to withstand launch, could hold books, the 2026-equivalent of the iPod. Make them transulcent to show off whatever stuff the astronauts bring with them. Since they are intended to hold soft, plushy, compact stuff, they can be shoved aside and compressed laterally without much effort.