Published on: June 26, 2018
By Ismail Adil
Recycling orbital debris to reconstruct 3D printed interlocking brick-cells to build space habitats in orbit.
Earth’s orbit is so crowded, according to NASA there are over half a million pieces space debris orbiting around the earth, fragmented rocket bodies and spacecraft parts are causing serious concerns and it poses threat to functioning satellites as well as spaceflight missions. For now, some are trying to find ways to clean those space junks, but I believe the real problem lies in the designing stage of satellites and rockets. So we have to re-think how we manufacture rockets, satellites and space habitats to solve this orbital trash problem much smartly. Rockets and satellites can be built in a reusable way, and when they become defunct, they have to be able to transform into a new usable objects again or their parts have to be re-used to repair orbital objects; such as space stations, satellites, and other habitats as well.
3D printed interlocking brick-cells
One of the best ways to achieve this reusable method will be manufacturing rockets and satellites from specially designed interlocking brick-cells. These brick-cells can be designed in limited shapes, most preferably regular polygon shapes such as hexagon and equilateral triangle shaped interlocking brick-cells. These brick-cells will be interlocked using mortise and tenon-joineries techniques as illustrated in the diagram. Such interlocking shapes make the structure stronger and provide an efficient method for reconstructions. This idea also encourages to produce lighter and smaller modules and hence replacement becomes easier and less costly. For this to work, we need to capture orbital space debris, and hopefully in near future scientists will develop an efficient method to achieve this. Once space debris capturing method is succeeded, especial constructing factory can be built in Earth’s orbit to do the whole dismantling, recycling, printing, assembling and manufacturing processes to build space habitats, spacecraft’s, satellites and space bots etc.
A factory in orbit
Special space constructing factory can be built in Earth’s orbit and uncrewed “Constructing space spider-bots” can be used for dismantling and assembling works of interlocking brick-cells. Constructing a functioning space habitat requires undamaged interlocking captured brick-cells (from orbital debris) and 3D re-printed interlocking brick-cells. Damaged brick-cells can be recycled and then re-printed as new interlocking brick-cells. Even some special shape of gadgets and other small things such as bolts and nuts also can be re-cycled and re-printed for future use. Once brick cells are connected using joinery techniques some brick-cells can be bolted or pegged to make structure hold together and these processes have to be fully automised to work efficiently. When assembling work of a module is completed, special insulation can be installed to make habitats sealed and to stabilize inside temperature and pressure.
Reusable construction in future
With the help of this kind of concept we may able to solve and minimize orbital debris problem in a much ingenious way to re-use those defunct objects again. Also 3D printed re-usable interlocking brick-cells technique can be used to construct buildings and other structures on earth to make it more cost-effective and environment friendly in the long run. Hence, this method can be used to construct habitats on the Moon and the Mars as well as other interplanetary missions, to make space exploration and colonization feasible and efficient. With this idea, we may be able to accomplish building space hotels and other habitats in earth’s orbit much sooner than presently expected, to make space travel and tourism economically viable.