Essential Elements Of Space Station Design
Living in space requires that you bring part of Earth along with you. One needs the basics:
• Environmental control - heating and cooling
• Maneuvering rockets and fuel
• Protection from radiation and micrometeorites
All of this we take for granted here on Earth, but they are all something that an astronaut needs for survival in space, and all of it has to be launched into orbit. You need some form of structure to contain you and your accessories. This typically comes in the form of a cylinder, which minimizes weight while giving a structure that is strong and can be pressurized and easily fits in the launch vehicle.
A power source is required to run the pumps, electronics, computers, heaters, coolers, and other equipment on the station, and this comes from arrays of solar cells. Batteries are needed to power the station when it is in Earth’s shadow, and the solar cells stop generating electricity.
All of this equipment generates heat, which has to be removed from the station, otherwise it will begin to heat up like an oven, especially with the Sun’s direct rays illuminating the station for 45 minutes out of the 90 minute orbit. So, the station has to have radiators to radiate that excess heat into space. To make the radiators work you need some type of fluid to carry the heat from the station’s modules to the radiators, which for the International Space Station is liquid ammonia.
To keep the station functioning properly control systems will be needed to:
• Maintain the station’s orbit
• Monitor its power requirements
• Environmental control
• Provide communications, data collection and storage
• Water purification and a number of many other tasks that are required to make the station function.
This involves many computer systems with back-ups as well as the sensors to monitor all the systems of concern, and controls to affect changes as needed for smooth operation of the station. Speaking of back-ups, it should be noted that most major critical systems have at least one, if not two back-ups in the event of a failure.
Now that the basic station is in orbit and has the essentials to keep humans alive, it’s time to get down to the real reason for being in space and that is research, which requires a lot of specialized equipment.