International Space Settlement Design Competition

Artificial Gravity

The International Space Settlement Design Competition judges expect that your team of students will design a Space Settlement that provides artificial gravity for its occupants. Although there are some schools of thought advocating zero-gravity habitation in space, the Foundation Society considers this a strong "quality of life" issue; any proposal for a space settlement design that does not provide artificial gravity will need a very compelling argument in order to win favor with the judges.

The judges will, however, favorably consider proposals that advocate other than one Earth gravity. Proposals should justify their selection of artificial gravity acceleration; the judges are mostly concerned that the students have considered implications of their decision (e.g., less acceleration enables structural integrity with less weight; more acceleration could enhance health and fitness of the occupants).

The judges only know of one way to produce artificial gravity with technology that will be available within the foreseeable future: the settlement must rotate. If students come up with any other scheme for providing gravity, they must provide compelling justification. The judges are also familiar with studies that predict occupants will become ill if subjected to rotation rates greater than three revolutions per minute; they will look most kindly on rotation rates of one revolution per minute or less.

The judges also expect that a settlement which provides artificial gravity through rotation will have circular cross-sections in those volumes that are rotating. The figure (from a mid-1970's NASA study) shows suggested configurations for rotating space settlements. Your team may choose one of these or a hybrid of several. Non-circular designs would need very strong justification.

The amount of "gravity" induced by spinning can be calculated, and it is expected that Space Settlement Design Competition proposals will specify both rotation rate and the magnitude of artificial gravity produced. An exercise is included that demonstrates this calculation.

EXERCISE: Artificial Gravity

How fast does a Stanford Torus spin to have acceleration equivalent to one Earth gravity?

Suggested Shapes for Rotating Space Settlements