Science: Space
Inflated Space Station 2   (+2, -2)  [vote for, against]
Maybe going inside out is the way to build large space structures quickly. . .

Basically, the idea is to inflate a space-worthy balloon in space, then complete the structure by using the inflatable as foundation for externally mounted structural elements. Once it is rigid enough, a crew of two or three installs 'foam' panels made using a pre-form mold. the foam itself is produced from chemicals contained in pressure vessels.

As they are formed the panels are installed (glued? velcroed?) to the exposed surfaces of the balloon.

After the panels are installed, sheets of metal or composite material are run through a jig and formed into flanged panels with a radius of curvature identical to the foam-covered balloon. These are then bolted together, along with any useful items like struts or handholds etc.

The result would be a pressurized facility with micrometeorite shielding (the metal or composite outer skin) and a high degree of radiation-absorbing foam shielding.

The thickness iof the foam would have to be determined by where the facility was to be deployed.

This is a labor-intense approach intended more for very large (say, 10 meters or more by 10 meters) striuctures too bigfor launching on rockets.

Please be gentle. This is my first time. . .

P.S. On Halfbakery, that is!
-- Moonguy, Jun 22 2007

Foam Hulled Spacecraft Foam Hulled Spacecraft
Similar concept. [zen_tom, Jun 22 2007]

Debris Damage
An article on debris damage on the Space Shuttle. [croissantz, Jun 22 2007]

Space Debris http://www.thegloba....php?format=print#8
earth orbit is cluttered with: ~11,000 objects bigger than 10 cm, of which ~9,000 are catalogued and tracked (~8000 are of US or USSR origin) - including around 600 functional spacecraft; ~100,000 objects from 1-10 cm -- too small to track, dangerous to spacecraft; and several million objects smaller than 1cm [nuclear hobo, Jun 22 2007]

Hazards Assessment http://www.wstf.nas...rd/Hyper/debris.htm
Hypervelocity Impact Test Facility [nuclear hobo, Jun 22 2007]

Bigelow space station
[theircompetitor, Jun 22 2007]

Cost effective, lightweight, and garnered more annos than puncture holes Low_20budget_20spacecraft
[normzone, Jun 22 2007]

Another halfbaked idea Space_20Jam
"A popcorn ball meteor!" "The worst kind..." [RayfordSteele, Jun 25 2007]

NASA study of space stations
this shows that this idea was considered 30+ yrs ago [the great unknown, Jun 28 2007]

(I heard this somewhere a while ago)

The reason NASA puts massive shielding on their spacecraft is from debris damage. In space, there is no friction or gravity. This means that tiny particles (such as paint chips, paper clips, missing screwdrivers, etc.) can travel at virtually unlimited speeds without ever slowing down. These super-fast particles can impact a space station and cause massive damage (see link). An inflatable space station would almost certainly be popped before you could fit it with proper shielding.
-- croissantz, Jun 22 2007 you guys like, live in a bubble? see link
-- theircompetitor, Jun 22 2007

Try this one (link).
-- normzone, Jun 22 2007

Croissantz: The debris problem is real enough, but not as bad as is often believed. the chances of ever being hit by anything as massive as a screw driver - i assume you meant the hand tool, not the alcoholic beveredge - are extremely slim. as for pasint chips, the construction process outlined would take hours or a few days, not months. Even the ISS doesn't get whacked that often.
-- Moonguy, Jun 23 2007

Baked. the idea of inflatables has been around for years. there was also a suggestion that the classic space wheel could be a giant innertube inflated then spraypainted with shielding material. it could even be molten metal sprayed on that will super-cool on contact in the cold darkness of space.
-- the great unknown, Jun 25 2007

Bit of a clarification due: I did see the foam concept. that was for foam supported on a frame structure. This inflatable was 'self-supporting' in the sense that only the air pressure inside was keeping the inflated part rigid. The inflated envelope would be responsible for retaining the atmosphere - ideally with a good factor of safety built in. The foam was strictly an insulation scheme against both temperature ranges and radiations. Also, the foam was to be cast in molds to a shape that fit snugly around the inflatable. The idea was that any number of foam panels could be made allowing very large structures to be built in this manner. These two ideas were different - and I do not necessarily say better than - from the earlier foam station concept.

As for the outer metal or composite panels, they were not at all intended to retain pressure or provide rigidization. Their role was to protect the foam against UV and micrometeorites, as well as space junk.

Internal structural support was to be built up inside, which admittedly is a weakness in the concept. Still, the concept may have a future. . .

Things like Reaction Control systems and solar panels or radiators would aldso have to be mounted externally. Not exactly a dream job.

On reflection, I probably should have chosen a subject not already existing on the Halfbakery. Please know there was no intentiuon of stomping creative toes. I honestly thought my angle on the concept was sufficiently different to warrant an appearance here.
-- Moonguy, Jun 26 2007

My toes feel fine. Any opportunity for gratuitous cross-linking is a good opportunity.
-- normzone, Jun 26 2007

/by anything as massive as a screw driver - i assume you meant the hand tool, not the alcoholic beveredge /

Spelling and capitalisation aside, I like this.
-- Texticle, Jun 27 2007

Was there an: Inflated Space Station 1?
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Jun 27 2007

My toes are too - wriggling around not being even remotely entrodden.
-- zen_tom, Jun 27 2007

Don't feel bad, I've put in ideas that I just wanted to know if anyone ever thought of them. I get the same reaction, sometimes worse. I don't think this idea is bad, it's just been kicked around for awhile. I don't think NASA has been friendly with foam these days.
-- the great unknown, Jun 27 2007

The Great Unknown: Thanks for the encouraging words! Take it from me, NASA hasn't been 'freindly' to anything for over thirty years.
-- Moonguy, Jun 28 2007

I was referring to the last shuttle tragedy, where falling foam busted the wing. The link has some examples of NASA trying out some ideas for space stations, including an inflated wheel
-- the great unknown, Jun 28 2007

random, halfbakery