|Why remain in Earth orbit?
||As long as the ship remains in Earth's orbit, the ship is
relatively close. Essentially crew and supplies can go to
the ship and return at any time with relatively short travel
time. This also allows the research spacecraft to return to
LEO as necessary for updated hardware or emergencies.
|Why 900 days?
||A trip to Mars and back is a minimum of 26 months long.
This is because we have to wait for the Earth and Mars to be
relatively close to each other (a conjunction) for the trip
to be practical. We simply don't have the technology to fly
back and forth any time. Thus we have to wait for
"launch windows" which make the trip much shorter
|Why 1,000,000 mile orbit?
||This number is arbitrary, but not totally arbitrary. The
distance from Earth has to be far enough to experience what
deep space is really like. This also means it has to be
beyond the gravitational sweeping of our moon (250,000
miles), has to be further than the magnetic effects of Earth
(500,000 miles). Given that Mars is 34,000,000 miles, it
seem reasonable to conduct this mission at least 1,000,000
|Why artificial gravity?
||First and foremost, we need empirical data about the
health effects of reduced gravity. We don't even know if
humans can survive on Mars for 2 years and remain healthy.
The same can be said for Luna. Beyond that, It would be nice
for travelers to maintain their health on the way between
Earth and Mars. So, if we can demonstrate methods for
inducing gravity or show methods for compensating for the
lack of gravity, that would be a huge benefit for the design
of interplanetary crewed spacecraft.
|Why 900 days without support from Earth?
||As mentioned, with any technology we can foresee in the
near future, supply or transport ships can only journey to
Mars every 26 months. So, any person on a trip to Mars or
living on its surface will need to be self sufficient for at
least a 26 month period.
|Why build such a big ship?
||In order to create spin gravity on a platform that spins
slow enough to eliminate vertigo effects on the crew, the
minimum radius of the spin has to be 30m or greater. This
works out to about 4 RPM @ 32m for a gravity of 1/3 Earths
gravitational acceleration at the circumference. In terms of
cabin "area", how much space would you like to be
confined within for a 900 day journey? The FOLDINGSS research
ship as proposed, still only allows the equivalent
area of a room about 19ft by 19ft with some additional
common area per crew (assumes a 12 person compliment).
Keep in mind that the ship needs to hold all the
resources necessary for a 900 day journey. This means all
the food, all the water, all the gases, all the propellant,
all the fuel, all repair parts, all scientific requirements,
everything for the 900 day mission. This requires a large
storage area. Recycling will go a long way to reducing the
storage space needed, but there is no way around the need
for a large ship.
|What has changed that makes this program possible now, as opposed the 1980s?
||There have been many technological developments over the
last 50 years since Apollo that make a ship like the
FOLDINGSS ship possible. Also, there have been many
realizations about long term space habitation that have made
a program like FOLDINGSS necessary. Here is a short list:
- After our successes with Apollo, humanity was
comfortable with the assumption that humans could live
in micro gravity for extended periods of time with
little negative effects. Our experience on the ISS since
then have shown that there are many health problems that
come with the absence of gravity. Problems with bone
density, muscle density, vision, digestion, and other
systems become big problems when living in micro gravity
for months. So 8, 10 months in micro gravity may simply
be too hard on the human body to survive or to
accomplish a deep space mission. Some are now
considering long term habitation on Mars or Luna without
any study of the effects of 1/3 or 1/6 Earth gravity.
Again, our assumptions may prove completely wrong.
- The ISS program demonstrated that we can build long
lasting structures in space. One of the great
innovations of the ISS program is the humble Common
Berthing Mechanism (CBM). This standardized apparatus
for connecting modules for both structural connection
and environmental envelope connection has proven very
effective for in-orbit integration. Its passage
dimensions are small, but suits the current boosters
nicely in terms of the maximum size of modules we can
currently place in orbit.
- The ISS has demonstrated long term water and air
recycling systems. This technology dramatically reduces
the mass of supplies required for crew life support on
long duration missions.
- ION drive has just within the last 5 years reached the
power levels where large ships can utilize them. The
advancements have come in two areas: First, the
thrusters have become more powerful, like the X3
multi-channel Hall thruster. The power levels of this
unit on the order of 10N is small but sufficient for
orbital drives. Second, the solar collection methods
have advanced to the point that thrusters like the X3,
which need tens of kilowatts are practical. Modern
multi-junction cells have reduced the collection area to
a point that it is practical to build solar collectors
to power electric ION drives to reach destinations
within the inner 4 planets.
- The innovation of reusable boosters has put the
economic and political cost of this type of program with
reach of a single political (US 4 or 8 year) cycle.
|How does FOLDINGSS differ from NASA's #EarthtoMars Plan?
The Earth to Mars Plan put forth by NASA in 2016 based on
2010 space proposal layed out a 4 step plan:
0) Use the ISS to learn about long term habitation in space
1) Cis Lunar deep space gateway (Build gateway in orbit
around moon, build a moon base for DST)
2) Assemble Deep Space Transport ship (DST) in lunar orbit
with support from moon base.
3) Mission to Mars on DST
4) Landings on Mars from DST cis Mars.
The FOLDINGSS mission is first and foremost a deep space
research station that may or may not ever journey to Mars.
However, it builds upon the knowledge gained and the
techniques used on the ISS. Specifically, the ISS effort has
yielded two major outcomes as it pertains to FOLDINGSS.
First, it has demonstrated that mirco gravity is a huge
problem for long term human occupation in space. Second, it
has shown the success of the CBM (common berthing mechanism)
as a means to integrate large structures in space. Other
matters relating to life support, like water recycling, have
been furthered by the ISS experience as well. So in terms of
item 0, FOLDINGSS is very similar to the NASA plan.
FOLDINGSS assumes there is very little actual value in a
moon base. Nor does it find any value in a small Lunar space
station. The FOLDINGSS research vessel meets all the
criteria of the DST and may eventually fulfill an
interplanetary role, but, rather than expending time and
money on Lunar infrastructure. FOLDINGSS builds a ship in
Earth orbit and bases all its activities from LEO support.
Ironically, the FOLDINGSS research craft can very easily act
as a transport mechanism to Lunar orbit if there are
concurrent programs that can benefit, but ultimately Luna is
not a fundamental aspect to the FOLDINGSS program.
FOLDINGSS primary mission terminates after a successful
900 day deep space demonstration. However, Items 3 and 4 or
the NASA plan can easily be accomplished by having the
FOLDINGSS craft act as the DST. It could journey to Mars to
perform functions from orbit, such as real-time robotic
control and science. It could also work with a robotic
lander and ascent vehicle for sample return. And finally,
the FOLDINGSS version of DST could be the launching point
for a human Mars lander and ascent vehicle. Since FOLDINGSS
would be in Mars' orbit, relatively smaller vehicles could
be used with less energetic ERL profiles for a martian
landing. One journey to Mars could potentially support
multiple sorties to the surface especially if in situ fuel
production was possible on the martian surface.
|How does FOLDINGSS differ from Elon Musk's Mars Plan?
||Because the Musk/SpaceX plan is a thinly undefined at this
point, the comparison is a bit difficult. Also, FOLDINGSS
primary mission is NOT transport or colonization of Mars.
But, for the sake of the comparison, lets assume FOLDINGSS
secondary mission is to transport people and equipment to
Mars and compare what that might look like as opposed to the
StarShip type plan. These plans are detailed from the end of
a journey back to the beginning as this is the correct
method to design a mission, knowing what is required at the
end to determine the requirements of the beginning. First, what I perceive as the StarShip
1) The Starship vehicle was designed as a direct return
vehicle. That is to say, it must fulfill the final leg of a
return trip from the martian surface. So, assuming it
is completely refueled on Mars, it has to be big enough to
hold enough fuel and oxidizer to ascend from Mars. It also
has to carry enough supplies to support the returning crew
compliment for the duration of the trip back to Earth. After
reaching Mars orbit it must enter a trans-earth trajectory,
perform the necessary transfer burns to reach Earth. Once it
reaches Earth, it will not attempt to orbit Earth, rather it
will use its heat tiles to accomplish a high energy entry
into Earth's atmosphere, where it will use aerodynamics to
slow further and navigate to a landing position, where it
will use its remaining fuel to accomplish a propulsive
2) The Starship vehicle will reach Mars from LEO after Earth
rendezvous with 5 or more like vehicles for LEO refueling.
The 3 vacuum engines of Starship will place it in a
trans-Mars trajectory and execute all transfer burns to get
it to Mars. It will not attempt to orbit Mars but will use
its heat tiles to accomplish a high energy ERL using the
Martian atmosphere for interplanetary velocity braking.
3) The Starship vehicle is boosted to LEO by the Starship
Super Heavy booster. As multiple boosts are required to
refuel the Starship which will travel to mars, at least one
additional Starship is required, and most likely several
additional Starship tankers and Starship Super Heavy
boosters will be required to get the fueling accomplished as
quickly as possible.
FOLDINGSS approaches the Mars transit problem from a
different perspective. FOLDINGSS will accomplish a similar
outline in this way, made possible by the relatively high
specific impulse made possible by electric propulsion.
1) A FOLDINGSS lander/ascent vehicle (most likely a large
capsule with a single piece heat shield and landing gear)
would blast off from the surface of Mars and rendezvous with
the FOLDINGSS research ship in low Mars orbit (LMO). The
FOLDINGSS research ship will have been in orbit since
arriving at Mars at the previous earth-mars conjunction. The
FOLDINGSS will have an abundance of ION propellant for the
return trip remaining from its initial fueling in LEO. The
FOLDINGSS will execute one small chemical rocket burn to
begin a series of orbit modifications to make the orbit of
Mars more and more elliptical. At some point, the mars orbit
will intersect with an elliptical orbit of Earth and an
additional thrust will be applied to cause the FOLDINGSS
ship to be captured by Earth's gravity. ION burns will then
be used to circularize the Earth orbit until FOLDINGSS is in
LEO. The FOLDINGSS ship will rendezvous with one or more
Earth rated return capsule (likely a Crew Dragon capsule)
and return the martian crew and samples to Earth. The
FOLDINGSS ship is then ready for re-supply for subsequent
2) The FOLDINGSS ship reached Mars initially by leaving LEO
fully fueled and supplied by multiple Falcon Heavy launches
or Delta IV heavy launches. The crew was rotated by Falcon 9
crew flights as well. Refurbishment of the Mars Landers is
accomplished in LEO by replacement of the one piece heat
shield and LEO refueling. The FOLDINGSS craft leaves Earth
orbit with a small chemical burn and then uses ION drive to
modify its orbit to be more and more elliptical. Eventually,
by virtue of Mars passing into position and the elongation
of the orbit, FOLDINGSS orbit will intersect with an extreme
elliptical orbit of Mars, at this point additional chemical
and ION burns are performed so that Mars captures the
FOLDINGSS craft. ION propulsion is used to circularize the
orbit of FOLDINGSS around mars until it is in LMO. By using
ION thrusters, even a huge ship like FOLDINGSS can reach
mars with enough propellant for a return trip with no
additional refueling. Further, by trading transit time for
relative comfort the energy of the landings on either Earth
or Mars is reduced to that of low orbit entry. Since
FOLDINGSS has constant inertial gravity, crew health can be
maintained for a marginally longer transit and orbit stay.
Radiation is still a problem, but is addressed through more
extensive shielding and medical interventions. In whole, the
risk to mission and crew is greatly reduced for the
3) The FOLDINGSS craft was assembled in LEO in similar
manner to the ISS, making extensive use of CBM style
interconnects. Even the ION engines and Chemical engines on
the ISS are modular and attach with CBM type connections.
This allows the ship to be used on dozens, if not more,
missions. To prepare for any single mission, the long
duration trip requires life support supplies, ION
propellant, Chemical Fuel and Oxidizer, crew, and mission
specific hardware. All these are delivered via 5m or 7m
diameter rockets such as Falcon Heavy or Delta IV heavy or
Vulcan. These use traditional chemical rocket boosters with
the hope that reusable portions drastically reduces mission
Questions about Deep Space
|What is deep space and how is it different
from the space around Earth?
||The space around Earth is altered by the planet and its
moon. The gravity well tends to pull meteorites to Earth or
the moon. This can be assumed to sweep these dangers from
the space around the Earth. The magnetic field of the Earth alters the solar
radiation pattern and even interferes with cosmic radiation
around the Earth. The Earth also offers the potential for
periodic resource support, for a parking orbit. Also, there
is a psychological effect to traveling further from mother
Earth. So deep space is interplanetary space that is
distant enough from Earth to be free from its effects. Any
trip to Mars will spend the majority of its transit time in
deep space, so understanding the nature of that space is
essential for building safe spacecraft.
the Ship Configuration
|Why a rotating part and a non-rotating part?
||The rotating habitat is necessary to induce a simulated
gravitational acceleration. This large structure is like a
huge gyroscope or spinning top. It has a large mass and
therefore a lot of angular momentum. It is hard to move,
because it is hard to keep thrusters pointed in the right
direction. It is hard to turn in any direction other than
the plane of the spinning mass. Finally, it is very
difficult to dock with for receiving support or crew or
sending crew home.
Once the habitat is spinning, it will remain spinning
until the spacecraft is retired. So, to accomplish moving
the ship and docking, the most reasonable approach is to
have a connected second part of the ship which does not
spin. This second section, which we call the drive section,
must be connected to the spinning habitat via some sort of
bearing. The obvious connection points are the center of the
spinning habitat, like an axle or the perimeter of the
habitat like a handle riding on a perimeter rail. This
proposal chooses the axle connection point.
|Why is the ship's rotating habitat fixed on
the solar system's ecliptic?
||As mentioned above. The rotating habitat section acts as a
large gyroscope. Thus, to navigate the orbits of the
ecliptic, the ship needs to be oriented such that the
habitat is on the plane of the orbit of the planets. Now,
the planets are not perfectly aligned on this plane, but the
slight adjustments should be possible without undo stress on
the bearings connecting the drive units. The plane
adjustments can be accomplished with the small hall
thrusters on the ends of the habitat spokes. Since the
habitat spins on the ecliptic, it follows that one of the
drive section units will point north from the hub of the
habitat and the other drive section will point south.
|Why must the habitat keep spinning once it is
spun-up after construction?
||This is not an absolute requirement, but it simply is the
most reasonable condition. Little energy is required to keep
the wheel spinning. Slowing it down and spinning it up,
however requires a lot of energy.
Likewise, if it is postulated that the habitat will
always be spinning and therefore always have an acceleration
toward the outer perimeter of the wheel, many
simplifications are possible with the build out of the
habitat. Sanitation, food preparation facilities, living
quarters, fluid systems, gas systems, all these can benefit
from an assumed constant direction of gravitational
|Why are the drive sections and the habitat
wheel pressurized separately?
||There are two absolute requirements for the FOLDINGSS
spacecraft that necessitate separate envelopes for the
habitat space and the drive space. The first requirement is
that interior atmosphere leakage must be kept to a minimum.
Secondly, any connection between the rotating section and
the spatially fixed section (drive section) must be robust.
These two requirements eliminate any sort of sealed
bearing system. It is beyond our current technical
capabilities to produce a resilient seal that can operate in
the environment of space that is both an exceptional gas
seal and long lasting. For this reason, the proposed
FOLDINGSS spacecraft has separate envelopes and access
between the different sections is only possible through a
special airlock that can dock to either the spatially fixed
drive sections or spin and translate to dock to the spinning
habitat section. This mechanism is called the Angular
Transfer Structure (ATS). This mechanism allows FOLDINGSS to
have a heavy robust bearing mechanism, have independent but
well sealed envelopes and still allow the transfer of cargo
and crew between the ships sections as needed (albeit a bit
a slow and cumbersome transfer method).
|Why use inflatable modules?
||The FOLDINGSS research ship is very large for all the
reasons given here. To boost
anything with this large of a pressurized space, inflatable
modules offer significant advantage. First, it is a proven
technology. Bigelow Aerospace has proven the viability of
both the inflation method and the orbital performance of the
technology with their BEAM ISS module and their previous
Genesis modules. Second, a small sub 5m fairing can contain
a module with an expanded diameter greater than 7 meters.
The ability to loft modules with this type of interior
space is a major benefit for the program and speeds the
creation of a capable ship by at least a factor of two.
|Can the FOLDINGSS
research spacecraft operate in a planet's atmosphere?
||Absolutely not! The FOLDINGSS ship is strictly and orbital
vessel. It stays in space by virtue of its orbital speed.
The ship would certainly break up or burn up were it to
enter a planets atmosphere at even a fraction of its orbital
speed. Also, it has no means of lifting itself, or even
hovering within a planets atmosphere.
The ship will have a weight of 500,000 lbs. That means,
on Earth, 500,000 lbs of thrust are required to hover. The
FOLDINGSS ship has a tiny fraction of that thrust. At full
power, the ship can only produce about 162 lbs of thrust.
This is sufficient for low impulse orbital changes, but is a
couple thousand times too weak to even hover on earth. On
the moon, there is no atmosphere, but the thrust required to
hover is still over 90,000 lbs. On Mars, 180,000 lbs would
be required to hover.
|Why use modules
instead of building a big cylinder in space?
||The bottom line is that humans do not know how to build
things from scratch in space. There have been proposed
systems for using robots and special ships for extruding
parts and welding them together in orbit. This technology
will likely be required to build really large spacecraft.
However, at this point in time, we are decades away from
that technology. Earth orbit is a terrible place to have
construction waste. Even the fragments of flux or droplets
of metal from a weld are a potential spacecraft destroying
Realistically, Earth's moon might make a reasonable
setting for constructing spacecraft from scratch. There is
even a lot of resource there already. However, for the near
future, the only flight ready construction methods available
are those pioneered for the ISS. The Common Berthing
Mechanism is a time proven method for both structurally
attaching pre-built modules and sealing their connection,
all with captured, self contained fasteners. Thus, the
FOLDINGSS craft is a structure that is bolted together at
CBM interfaces. Each module must be small enough to be
boosted into orbit by available boosters.
Questions about Propulsion
|Why use ION drives?
||This question may require some background about orbital
transfers. Some orbital transfers require less delta-V than
others and are therefore more efficient in terms of energy.
The Hohmann transfer is generally considered the ideal to
strive for in terms of efficient transfers between planets.
However, this type of transfer requires three relatively
powerful burns, one to make the exiting orbit highly
elliptical, one to transfer into a highly elliptical orbit
around the destination planet, and the last burn to
circularize the low orbit around the destination planet.
Bi-elliptic transfers are another similar efficient
transfer. However these require very high impulse rockets.
Current technology would require large chemical rockets to
get that kind of impulse. The efficiency or "specific
impulse" of chemical rockets is 400 seconds or less.
This means lots of fuel mass. This means a strong structure
to survive the high accelerations involved.
Now an ION thruster is a completely different beast.
First, it works by using a high voltage electric field to
accelerate propellant ions (usually a noble gas ion, like
argon, or xenon) to very high speed. This means it can
achieve a propellant mass efficiency resulting in specific
impulses of 2000 to 5000 seconds. This means 1/5 to 1/15th
the propellant mass. There are two catches, though. First,
current technology has only been able to produce ION
thrusters capable of 5.4N of thrust (for comparison, the
tiny Draco thrusters on the Dragon capsule produce 360N of
thrust). Second, the power for creating this thrust does not
come from the propellant, unlike chemical rockets. The X3
thruster which set the 5.4N thrust record, build by the
University of Michigan, requires 200 kW of electrical power.
Given the proposed size of the FOLDINGSS craft
(500,000lbs or 227mT), two X3 type thrusters built for long
life, and powered by triple junction solar arrays, could
just barely supply the required delta-V for a Mars Orbital
transfer over an 8 month period. The calculated mass of
propellant would be on the range of 17,600 lbs (8mT). Though
this transfer takes longer and is less efficient, it can be
supported within the mass budget of the ship will place
large stresses on the structure of the ship.
|Why include chemical thrusters
in addition to ION thrusters?
||The current proposal for the FOLDINGSS research craft
calls for small liquid fueled chemical thrusters in the
range of 400N or less, but with large fuel reservoirs. Long
term Cryogenic storage issues for the fuel and oxidizer have
yet to be completely resolved. The thrusters are included
for two reasons. First, using the thrusters at specific
points at perigee for successive orbits will allow for more
efficient orbital transfers. This make an orbit more and
more elliptical. The effect will be like that of a child on
a swing set.
The second reason for chemical thrusters is
safety. The ION drives are a novel technology. It will be
nice to know there is another means to get home if the ION drives
fail and cannot be repaired. The chemical thrusters will not
have enough fuel to accomplish a complete mission, alone.
However, the strategic use of fuel for bumps of impulse
should leave enough fuel to effect an elliptical orbit to
return the spacecraft to a perigee close to Earth orbit. The
capsules could then likely still effect a harrowing return
to Earth, if needed in an emergency.
|What exactly is life
||Life support are the systems and resources devoted to
keeping the crew alive and healthy. The most basic elements
of life support are:
- Breathable Air, so sufficient Oxygen partial pressure
and acceptable levels of CO2 and other toxins. For long
duration trips, this means gas recycling.
- Air pressure to keep things that should stay liquid,
as liquid within our bodies.
- Heat or cooling to keep the interior of the habitat
compatible with the temperature range humans can
- Drinkable water. Humans need a lot of water, for any
long duration away from an external supply, this means
- Food and the requisite food storage and preparation.
Fortunately, humans don't require a lot of food.
Dehydrated foods are relatively light and compact.
Probably there will be little food production on board,
though there will certainly be experiments with
horticulture and the breeding of chickens and small
|What is needed to
support, life support?
||Certainly energy is required. Power is required to recycle
air, to recycle water, to heat and cool the living spaces,
and to prepare food. Above that there are the actual
resources themselves as well as the space to store those
resources. For the recycling strategies, machinery and other
catalyst materials are also needed.
Questions about Mars
|Can Mars sustain
||This is the big question. We assume that it can within
limits. Mars has a very thin atmosphere of mostly CO2. It
has no magnetic field to shield it from solar radiation and
the thin atmosphere offers little protection from cosmic
radiation. Because there is so little atmosphere, it
captures little heat. It is also more distant from the sun,
so the solar flux is lower.
This means a human cannot live on the surface without a
pressure suit, full breathing gas support, and supplemental
heating. Radiation does not kill immediately, but the
increased dose over time will certainly induce many cancers
and other conditions associated with radiation exposure, so
life expectancy will be much lower unless some radiation
shielding is provided, possibly by underground living.
The lower solar flux means there is insufficient light
for traditional earth crops without additional UV light is
supplied artificially. Additionally, plants will need more
pressure, heat, liquid water and CO2 to thrive on Mars.
Several of the threats mentioned above can be mitigated
with energy. There are no known hydrocarbon sources on Mars.
Solar flux is too low for much solar energy collection
without huge arrays or some sort of solar
concentration. Martian windmills are insufficient
because of the low density of the atmosphere. This leaves
nuclear energy as about the only viable energy source on
The biggest question, for which we have no easy answer,
is whether the reduced gravity will have an adverse effect
on human health. There are really only two ways to get this
data. First, we can put humans on Mars. Assuming all the
above can be overcome, we do the minimum 2.5 year study to
see what happens. Or, we can use a ship like FOLDINGSS to
simulate Mars gravity in a much more controlled environment
at a much safer distance from Earth.
|Can we make Mars
more Earth like (terraforming)?
||It is likely that a few things can be done to help. First,
some studies have shown that it would be feasible to place a
large magnetic source at the Lagrange point between Mars and
the Sun. It is probably within the technical capabilities of
humans to build a space station that is nuclear powered that
could generate a magnetic field strong enough to
dramatically reduce solar stripping of Martian atmosphere.
By deflect enough solar wind, Mars would build up a denser
atmosphere over time.
A dense atmosphere would capture more heat, possibly to
the point of thawing some of the water buried in Martian
soils. Enough atmospheric pressure could likely be achieved
to eliminate the need for pressure suits for humans on the
surface of Mars. Breathing apparatus will still be required.
The artificial magnetic shield would also reduce solar
radiation and the increased atmospheric density would
decrease primary cosmic rays significantly, though probably
not eliminate secondary cosmic rays.
If enough plant life could be supported, through the use
of special low light plants or artificial lighting, O2 could
be generated into the atmosphere as well through
photosynthesis. Thus, over a long period of time it could
become possible for humans to walk the surface of Mars
without pressure suits or breathing support.
All of this assumes a great many things. Things having to
do with plant life and the success of an artificial magnetic
field. None of these steps will increase the gravitational
acceleration of Mars, however.
Questions about Boosters
|Why so many rocket
||Each booster has limited capacity for lifting weight, and
limited capacity for lifting volume. In the case of the
FOLDINGSS modules the limiting factor is usually the size or
volume of the module. At the time of this writing, there are
only a few U.S. rockets available that can lift
modules of the size required. In fact, it might be the case
that there are no U.S. rockets with fairing sizes that will
work. Currently, the Falcon Heavy has a 4.5m x 11m fairing
which is probably too short for the inflatable modules. ULA
has its delta IV heavy, it has some 4.5 x 19m fairings which
would probably work. The drive sections and central hub of
the habitat may need fairings that are larger around, closer
to 5.5 or 6.5m. Should that end up to be true, new fairings
would need to be designed.
So, the point is that the size of the individual pieces
of the FOLDINGSS ship are already near the maximum size of
current boost vehicles. New Glenn, or Vulcan boosters would
have ample fairing enclosure assuming they become
operational anytime soon. Likewise SLS will eventually have
a variant with the capacity but these last three launch
vehicles are still under development and the track record
for these things getting finished in a timely manner is very
All these rockets are performing a much bigger service
than just lifting pieces of the ship into space, however.
The are providing the lions share of the delta-V for these
missions. Most of the energy required to get to Mars, Deep
space, or even Luna is just the energy to get ships to
orbital height and to accelerate them to orbital velocity
speeding around the Earth. So, even though it seems like
boosting parts into space is sort of a waste of time and
energy, it is actually a very necessary element to the
journey. An added bonus is that, that energy is sort of
conserved as the FOLDINGSS ship goes about its many
missions. That boosting energy doesn't need to be spent
again. Smaller rockets just lifting crew and supplies is all
that is required for subsequent missions regardless of the
FOLDINGSS ship's destination.
Questions about Benefits
|Why Bother? What is
really so necessary about mankind gaining knowledge about
space and crewed missions to Mars?
||For people who are enthusiastic about space exploration,
the answer to this question is self evident. The challenge
is exciting and fulfilling. But, for those who don't enjoy
space exploration, is there an adequate answer?
Humans and virtually all life on Earth competes for
almost everything. Human's did not invent this dynamic.
However, humans have certainly added many new dimensions to
this competition within our species. We compete for mating
rights, for education, for money and therefore housing,
employment opportunities, food, recreation and so on. In
fact, humanities entire existence is based upon competition.
Some forms of this competition benefits society as a whole,
other forms of the competition are very destructive. Wars
would be an example of a destructive competition. Sports
would be an example of a competition that has some benefits
in terms of fitness, but that consumes a huge amount of
resources and pays back very little in terms of actual
useful social advancement.
Competition in terms of exploration has had a mixed bag.
Specifically, it has been great for the societies doing the
exploring and it has been disastrous for indigenous
inhabitants of the lands being explored, most often.
The exploration of space has probably been one of the
most benign forms of exploration humanity has ever embarked
upon. As far as we know, there have been no indigenous
inhabitants of the "lands" we are exploring. It
has caused the creation of many useful technologies. It
likely prevented a war between the west and the soviets in
the 50s, 60, and 70s. It is even amazingly affordable. If a
person were to add up all the money spent on little league
sports, sports arenas, sports television broadcasting,
sports merchandising, you would likely find more is spent on
that competitive endeavor that the U.S. space program per
year. Oh, and it has yields satellites to aid in our
entertainment pursuits as well.
Besides the relative low cost of space exploration (
approximately $100 annually for every person in the U.S. ),
much of that money provides useful technology or capability
that the U.S. military would or already does cover in its,
budget. So, the reality is that the civilian space program
is almost free.
So the space program is a means by which nations and
individuals can challenge themselves and in the process get
rewards of scientific and engineering advancement. There
stands a very good chance that space research will pay
dividends either by advanced warning of space catastrophe or
even the ability to prevent them. It is also likely that
space exploration will allow humanity to survive some Earth
based catastrophe in the future by virtue of humanity
existing on other planets or objects within our solar