Table of Contents
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Program Primary Objectives
Program Secondary Objectives
Program Tertiary Objectives
Garner Public and Official Support
Program Timeline
Program Refinement
Mission Hardware
Use of Flight Ready Hardware
Modification of Flight Ready Hardware
New Hardware Components
Novel Technology Required
On Orbit Integration and Assembly
Mission Control

Primary Objectives

  1.     Prepare for a crewed exploration beyond Earth's gravitational influence. Once a crewed vehicle is primarily influenced by the mass of the sun or another planet, launch and return windows become very infrequent. FOLDINGSS is a program to hone both our technology and our experience for these long duration journeys by simulating many of the known conditions while still within Earth's orbit. This provides a relatively safe test bed and a means for faster design iteration than actually leaving Earth's orbit.
  2.     Demonstrate a spacecraft capable of producing inertial gravity (spin gravity) comparable to the gravity experienced on the surface of Mars and Luna. The FOLDINGSS research spacecraft is a hybridization of a space station and a space ship. It is not designed to fly within an atmosphere. It is to be assembled in orbit. It is not capable of landing on a planet, nor ascending from a planet. It is, however, designed to simulate a human outpost on a planet or on Luna. The main capability in this regard, that is very difficult to simulate in any other way, is the ability to simulate reduced gravity. Using a spinning habitat section, crew can be exposed to downward acceleration comparable to that encountered on the surface of Mars or the surface of Luna. This ability to maintain reduced downward acceleration on crew subjects will allow a thorough assessment of the role of gravity both in transit to and habitation on the surface of planets and moons.
  3.     Demonstrate the ability to sustain a crew of humans for a minimum of 900 days continuously. As mentioned above, actual missions to destinations not orbiting the Earth will have very infrequent launch and return windows. Thus it is important to prove technology and methods that will sustain a crew for these long durations. The 26 month conjunction class window spacing for Mars is used as the basis for the 900 day benchmark to prove the capabilities for a crewed trip to Mars.
  4.     Demonstrate the ability to maintain the crew in good health. The crew of this long duration mission must be able to perform useful work in the gravity of the specified target body at any point in the journey. To date, no human has survived in space in LEO for longer than a year. The humans that have lived on the ISS for these long durations experienced a relatively difficult acclimation period readjusting to Earth's gravity. Data needs to be gathered and strategies need to be developed that will maintain a crew in deep space such that they are capable of functioning once they arrive at a deep space destination. FOLDINGSS address the gravity issue, both by gaining information about the effects of reduced gravity vs micro gravity and by maintaining a minimum level of gravitational acceleration through the use of spin gravity. These experiments will determine what levels of downward force must be maintained to prevent adverse sight effect, adverse circulation effects, adverse cardiovascular effects, and adverse neurological effects. We need to observe mice or other mammals reproductive capabilities and early developmental progress under reduced gravity.
        Additionally, social effects of long travel in confined spaces can be studied in a safe manner using the FOLDINGSS research craft. The FOLDINGSS craft is quite large, but still will have less than 20ft square per crew member even at low crewing levels. These areas are typical of enclosure sizes that will be employed on exploratory lunar and Martian missions. By studying the social and emotional effects of long term confinement and developing strategies for coping, both in terms of pharmaceuticals and occupation regimes, the likelihood of unforeseen social crisis on actual missions can be reduced significantly.
  5.     Demonstrate the ability to perform 1,2, and 3 above while at a mean distance of 1,000,000 miles from Earth for at least 50% of the mission. In addition to the reduced or absent gravity to be encountered on deep space missions, there will also be physiological assaults in terms of radiation both solar and cosmic. Hazards from micro-meteorites is also relatively unknown. Also, the psychological impacts of this sorts of distances and communication delays has not been studied. FOLDINGSS provides a relatively safe venue for gathering this data. It also provides a test bed for radiation mitigation technologies as well as medical intervention for detecting damage and treating damage related to radiation hazards.
  6.     Demonstrate the ability to perform 1,2,3, and 4 above without receiving any physical support from Earth. The mission must be self sufficient relying entirely on supplies provisioned at the start of the mission. There are very basic life support questions that need to be answered for missions of this duration. The most basic of which is whether or not we can demonstrate an ability to provide food, water and air for a crews for 900 days with no re-supply. Can we create a large enclosure with sufficient gas seals to store enough or recycle enough breathing and cooling gases for a 900 day mission? Can we package and preserve an adequate array of foods to maintain health for 900 days? Can we store enough water, or recycle enough water to provide for all the needs of a crew both for sanitation and hydration for 900 days? Can we grow any foods in space or on Mars? Can we or should we utilize any livestock as animal protein sources? These questions and more really need data before any rational mission to deep space can be considered.

Secondary Objectives

  1. Support Lunar programs concurrently by utilizing overlapping crew and/or capabilities. Such as providing ferry services for supplies, crew, or landing craft to Luna. The FOLDINGSS research platform, once in orbit, becomes a useful general purpose space ship. It has sufficient crew capabilities and extra docking ports on the drive section. Since a good part of the research project simply involves time in space, there is nothing preventing the ship from detouring to cis Luna activities. The FOLDINGSS spacecraft can act as a lunar gateway if necessary.
  2. Support scientific investigations by providing an observation point significantly distant from Earth. FOLDINGSS mass and location can provide a motion stabilized platform for a host of scientific observations. Various telescopes or other instruments can be mounted of the spacecraft  for space observation, solar observation, earth observation, or even Lunar observation.
  3. Provide emergency contingencies to other crewed missions such as Lunar missions. As Lunar operations increase over the next few decades, the FOLDINGSS spacecraft can serve as a safe fallback position in Lunar or Earth orbit. It can play a role as a hospital in lunar orbit until lunar facilities reach that level of completion.

Tertiary Objectives

  1. Continuous automated deep space observation. The FOLDINGSS research craft could be parked in a distant stable orbit or Lagrange point to conduct additional crewed or automated scientific observations. The space craft will be able to operate remotely, unattended for decades if required. The habitat wheel can slow its rate of spin to a low RPM to reduce wear on the main bearings and interior envelope pressure can be allowed to reach very low levels reducing the rate of loss of gases. This storage mode could be sustained for many years between supply visits. This would allow the FOLDINGSS spacecraft to be called back into service as necessary for future missions.
  2. Space Hospitality Venue (privately operated). The FOLDINGSS research craft could be parked in an Earth orbit that is reachable by commercial boosters and return craft. Thus acting as a space destination for entertainment or other private space purposes. This purpose for the research spacecraft could be contracted at the onset as a means to offset the construction and launch costs. The research craft can concurrently serve a for-profit entertainment role and an ongoing public/private orbital research role.
  3. Transport vehicle for actual transfer to Martian orbit. Provided sufficient total impulse is available, the FOLDINGSS research vessel could easily serve as the first spacecraft to transport crew to Mars. It could also ferry landing craft. It could also act as a safe point for other Martian explorers should evacuation become necessary. Once the FOLDINGSS mission has completed, the research vessel 

Garner Public and Official Support

As this program is a private initiative, the first steps are to publicize the mission concepts and gain support within the scientific community and within the space industry both private and public. It is within this effort that this document is made public. Social media, professional connections, paid publicity, and various business and technology incubators will be used to further this effort.

To make this proposed mission easier to envision, Some scale models and kits will be made available for purchase or as premiums for kick starter type online ventures. There will also be some fictional short stories produced to give readers a sense of the predicted experiences associated with the FOLDINGSS research craft and missions.

A good number of educated space enthusiasts are involved in online presence. These include individuals who might be called influencers that might get excited about FOLDINGSS and publicly support the program or program tenants.

There are online communities such as the Kerbal Space Program game community that has very enthusiastic space advocates. Possibly a Kerbal version of the FOLDINGSS research craft can be created for the space program and made available. In fact, the entire mission would be worked out as a space program on Kerbal which would likely reveal some really interesting information as well as garner support for the program.

There are foundations such as the Mars Society foundation that could be invited to help promote FOLDINGSS if they find its tenants in line with their own.

As some of the end of mission uses for the research craft include space tourism, an attempt will be made to garner excitement within the companies and leaders of this industry.

Lastly, all possible uses for this type of craft or mission will be explored with those charged with developing long term space exploration goals. The support of genuine space scientists will be essential, not only for the approval of this mission, but also for the design of experiments to be included in the mission.

Program Timeline

Once the FOLDINGSS mission becomes a real program with real funding and officially agreed upon goals, a timeline must be established to see the program through to a reasonable point of completion. What follows is a proposed starting working model of a timeline. This example recognized the significance of 4 years and 8 years as political transitions. The idea timeline moves the program forward fast enough to get hardware in orbit before prior to 4 years. Assuming the program can survive a U.S. election cycle, the program must finish all major expenditures within an 8 year timeline. That is to say, the research spacecraft must exist and be ready for missions. If the ship cannot be completed within 8 years, the likelihood of the program being begun is slim and the chances of it finishing are slimmer still.

month 0  (year 0 ) Start mission refinements with emphasis on specifying design requirement for early award flight hardware.
month 6 RFQ for large fairing for Delta Heavy and Falcon Heavy
RFQ for Central hub with bearings and angular transfer structure
RFQ for Habitat envelope modifications (Either Bigelow or licensed from Bigelow Aerospace)
RFQ for Habitat Power Modules. Must include batteries, Solar arrays, Single axis pointing system.
RFQ for Habitat Perimeter Modules. Must include batteries, Solar arrays, Single axis pointing system, Habitat CG system
RFQ for Habitat Robotic Arms (does not need logic for interference avoidance)
RFQ for Drive Truss. Must include airlock support, Solar array trolley, and two robotic arm trolleys.
RFQ for Booster Contracts (Each launch independent, Awarded Independent, Fixed bid)
RFQ for Habitat temporary mating rings (4) with dual CBMa
RFQ for Universal docking adapters
month 12 (one year) Conclude mission refinements. Experiments and protocols will come later. The list of desired experiments and desired space craft requirements must be final.
RFQ for Drive Solar Arrays. Includes supporting structures and single axis following and actuators.
RFQ for Drive ION Engines. Must be capable of 5N sustained thrust for 360 days. Must demo novel tech.
RFQ for drive section robotic arms
RFQ for Habitat build out (Floor decking, exterior walls, lighting, ladders, partitions, sanitation, galley)
RFQ for Water and Air recycling. May also include production of NH3, CH3, and O2. Must demo novel technology
RFQ for sanitary waste disposal and recycling. Must demo novel tech.
month 18
Award fairing contract.
Award Central hub contract (2 to be made, one stays on ground for support and training purposes)
Award Habitat temporary mating ring contract
Award Universal docking adapter contract (3)
Award Habitat envelope modification contract
Award Habitat build-out contract
Award Habitat Robotic Arms contract
Award Drive Truss contract
Award Drive robotic arms contract
Award first 9 booster contracts
month 24 ( 2 years ) First review of experiment protocols
Select 10 person assembly crew
Review of demos of ION engine, Water and Air recycling, Waste management
Award Habitat power module contract (qty 4)
Award Drive Solar Array contract
RFQ for provisioning contract (900 day food supply) (must demo and pass 760day test)
month 30 Accept first 6 fairings
Accept Habitat central hub, begin certification and integration for 1st launch
Accept Habitat temporary mating rings
Accept Universal docking adapters
Accept Habitat robotic arms (4)
Award Water and Air recycling system contract
Award Waste management contract
RFQ for space suites and in flight clothing (must demo for acceptance)
month 36 ( 3 years ) Launch #1 (Heavy booster with Universal docking adapter, Temporary mating ring, Habitat Central Core)
Launch #1p (Falcon 9 with crew dragon and 3 assembly team astronauts)
Launch #2 (Heavy booster with Universal docking adapter, Temporary mating ring, two Habitat robotic arms)
Launch #2p (Falcon 9 with crew dragon and 3 assembly team astronauts)
Accept 4 modified inflatable habitat modules
Accept Habitat power modules
Award ION engine contract
RFQ for chemical engines (low impulse, big propellant and O2 tank, long storage, in flight cryo maintenance)
Award Water and Air recycling contract
Award Waste management contract
Award Habitat perimeter module contract
Award next 9 launches
month 42 Launch #3 (Heavy booster with 1st inner habitat envelope)
Launch #4 (Heavy booster with 2nd inner habitat envelope)
Launch #5 (Heavy booster with 3rd inner habitat envelope)
Launch #6 (Heavy booster with The three habitat power modules) 
Launch #7 (Heavy booster with The habitat cross bracing and assembly crew provision launch)
Accept 3 modified inflatable habitat modules
month 48 ( 4 years ) Launch #7p (Falcon 9 with crew dragon and 4 assembly crew for rotation) Only the assembly commander and assembly engineer stay. Swap first dragon which undocks prior to this ships arrival. Crew will have been in orbit for almost 12 months.
Accept Habitat perimeter modules (4)
Accept Drive Truss (3)
Accept Drive solar arrays (3)
Launch #8 (Heavy booster with 1st outer habitat envelope)
Launch #9 (Heavy booster with 2nd outer habitat envelope)
Launch #10 (Heavy booster with 3rd outer habitat envelope)
Launch #11 (Heavy booster with all 3 of the habitat perimeter modules)
Launch #11p (Falcon 9 with crew dragon and 4 person crew rotation) This relieves the initial assembly commander and assembly engineer. Also replaces 2 of the habitat specialists with 2 drive specialists.
Launch #12 (Heavy booster with North Drive Truss)
Launch #13 (Heavy booster with North Drive Solar Array)
Award Chemical Engine contract
month 54 Launch #14 (Heavy booster with South Drive Truss)
Launch #15 (Heavy booster with South Drive Solar Array)
Accept Water and Air recycling systems (4)
Accept Waste management systems (4)
Award provisioning contract (enough for 16 crew)
month 60 (5 years) Accept ION engines (3)
Accept Chemical engines
Accept provisions for 4 crew
Launch #16 (Heavy booster with North Engines and ION propellant)
Launch #17 (Heavy booster with South Engines and ION propellant)
Launch #17p (Falcon 9 with 4 crew, rotate out some assembly with, mission commander and  3 mission engineers)
month 66 First spin-up of the habitat wheel. (spin for 1 RPM to produce 1/24G and 1/12G) Uses ION engines on habitat spokes
  Verify all habitat solar arrays track properly
  Verity the automatic CG balancing system if functioning properly
First test firing of the Drive section chemical rockets (low thrust)
First test of the Drive section ION engines, fire for 30 days at 50% thrust, 20 days at 100% and 10 days at 150%. The last burn is retrograde to test drive section reorientation and to lower orbit back near original LEO altitude.
Second firing of the chemical rockets to circularize orbit and test relight functions.
Launch #1 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew, rotate out 2 assembly crew, leaves 8 on board)
Launch #2 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew, rotate out 2 assembly crew, leaves 10 on board)
Launch #3 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew, rotate out last 2 assembly crew, leaves 12 on board)
month 72 ( 6 years ) Launch #4 operational (Heavy booster with provisions for 900 days)
Launch #5 operational (Heavy booster with chemical propellants, instruments, misc payloads.
Launch #6 operational (Heavy booster with lunar landing craft) (this is imaginary payload)
Increase habitat wheel rotation to full speed (4 RPM to produce 1/6G and 1/3G)
Test mission to reach L1, then Luna, then L2
Test mission to reach L3 and L4, investigate trojans and categorize Lagrange points 
Return to LEO
Perform full diagnostic and reporting on system functions
month 78 Launch #7 operational (Heavy booster to replenish consumed fuel, and provisions) 
Launch #8 operational (Heavy booster with equipment for deep space missions) 
Launch #9 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew, rotate 4 initial crew with deep space specialists)
Get blessings for first deep space mission
month 84 Embark on first deep space mission, first stop circa Luna
month 90 Transfer to 500,000 mile orbit, Then transfer to 1,000,000 mile orbit
month 96 ( 8 years ) Return to LEO
Launch #10 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew rotate 4 initial crew)
Launch #11 operational (Falcon 9 with 4 crew rotate remaining 4 initial crew)
Observe crew and their adjustment to Earth gravity. Do full medical evaluation of 12 crew with approx 24 month in IG)
Contrast with assembly crew at 15 months in micro G.
Get blessing for long duration self sufficiency mission
Launch #12 operational (Heavy booster to equip for long duration deep space mission)
Embark on 900 day, deep space mission
month 112 transfer orbit to circa Luna 250,000 miles
monitor all mission experiments in deep space
month 118 ( 9 years ) transfer orbit to circa 1,000,000 miles
monitor all mission experiments in deep space
month 124 monitor all mission experiments in deep space
month 130 ( 10 years ) monitor all mission experiments in deep space
month 136 monitor all mission experiments in deep space
Return to LEO from 1,000,000 miles
Assess the future of FOLDINGSS program and research space craft.
month 142 (11 years) Meet contractual obligations of program commercial partners.

The final disposition of the research craft is unknown. Assuming the design life of the craft is 30 or 40 years, technology will likely render it comparatively useless at some point. The ship should then be placed out of harm as possibly a Trojan of Earth, placed in orbit of a Saturn moon, or maybe crashed into Venus or Mercury as a data gathering mission.

Prior to its decommissioning, between the 11 to 15 years of its service to FOLDINGSS until its end, commercial parties will likely enjoy another 15 to 25 years of relatively worry free service. NASA, ESA, or other space entities can rent space back from the commercial parties that own the ship at that point and further recoup costs or enlarge profits.


Mission Refinement

The FOLDINGSS initiative will need to morph into a legitimate space program at some point. When personnel with space program experience become involved, the program will need additional detail, allowances will need to be made for oversight and the whole process of securing money will need independent review, both for private money and government money.

The science community will also want to refine the science as they become aware of new capabilities the mission offers. So, there will almost certainly be a period of mission refinement. This will affect time lines, ship design, personnel selection, budgets, and management methods.


Mission Hardware

The FOLDINGSS program requires one extremely large and expensive piece of hardware, the research spacecraft. Beyond that, existing spacecraft and space program resources are sufficient. A dedicated space for mission control and some dedicated communications bandwidth and pointed antennae are required (or scheduled antennae time).

Also, some of that mission control space will need an area for ground based mockups and duplicated equipment for training and emergency technical support. This will require some large warehouse or hanger space where a habitat can be installed, inflated with a habitat perimeter module below it and a habitat power module above it. This space may need to be able to be evacuated to non-molecular flow vacuum levels. If a full vacuum chamber is required, that would represent a significant expense. Likewise, a smaller vacuum chamber may be required for the drive stage and ION engine ground based copy. Most likely the makers of the ION engine will have a workable facility.

It may be advantageous to have some dedicated ground based medical facilities that mimic those on board the research spacecraft.


Use of Flight Ready Hardware

The proposed timeline above makes clear that the ship is to be designed and built in a hurry. This haste is necessitated both by the increasing cadence of calls for human landings on Mars and by the political and economic realities of a long space program. 8 years to mission start is a long time even by the rapid timeline proposed.

One important strategy  for compressing a development timeline to use as much flight ready hardware as possible. This is the reason for the heavy reliance on CBM interconnect. It also is the reason all modules are scaled to support current rated booster capabilities. The Drive truss should avoid using any esoteric tech and fall back on proven ISS module methods. The inflatable habitats should be based on proven technology from Bigelow Aerospace such as the Sundancer and Beam projects and the already developed B330 module.

Another important strategy for compressing development is to design in modules, and create upgrade able systems. The gas and water recycling will likely be based upon ISS or other life support developments already available. However, only basic footprints need to be established initially. Years after the first hardware is launched, the flight ready versions of that hardware can be placed in the earlier developed platforms.

Drive engines are designed to be easily swapped out as they are just docked using CBM pairs. This allows higher impulse engines to be used as they become available. The continuous Inertial Gravity limits the upper range thrust for the FOLDINGSS research spacecraft but more efficient orbital transfers will reduce transit time, thus potentially reducing risk for crew on actual planetary missions.


Modification of Flight Ready Hardware

Some modifications of existing tech is necessary. For example general purpose fairings large enough to support the B330 module scale need to be designed tested and deployed. This is not a huge difficulty, but it is an expense and a central ability that needs to come to fruition.

Solar arrays will need to use triple junction technology to achieve the levels of power needed for the amount of area the ship has available. Some of the tech is still at a lower lab demonstration stage. This will need to be accelerated, but increased funding and contract commitments.

Mechanical pressure space suits should be incorporated into this long term study. This is an emerging technology that needs a good platform for tests.

The ION engine required is a generation beyond what has been flown. The X3 has demonstrated the possibilities and thrust level of multi-channel designs. The X3 or X4 needs to be refined for long duration use and given trials as soon as possible. Ironically, the FOLDINGSS spacecraft is the logical test bed for this type of hardware and the existence of the research spacecraft will move this technology along much faster.

Existing experimental radiation protection techniques will need to be scaled up and tested on FOLDINGSS program.

The availability of Luna level and Mars level gravity in spacecraft will require modifications and developments of new strategies and systems for sanitary, laundry, waste, humidity, and galley functions.

The CBM pair mating of modules completely defines the mechanical interconnect and crew passage way hatches. However, the auxilliary connections of power, cooling, water, propellant, or whatever is required is not fully specified by the CBM standard. These pressure tight interconnections will need to be specified and fabricated.


New Hardware Components

The solar arrays, though based on existing tech will be new to this scale.

The angular transfer structure technology will be new as no need for this sort of crew separation bulkhead has been required before.

The main habitat bearings and electrical slip rings are a completely new hardware system, though the technology to accomplish them does not require novel technical abilities.

The center of gravity balance ballast system (CG control) is a new hardware system never seen before on any human craft. Though it is similar to some active ballast control in large ocean going ships. Now it must work in 3d space.


Novel Technology Required

Very little entirely new technology is required for this program. Though this program may incubate some new technology especially as the scientific community contributes experiments to the program.

Radiation mitigation seems the most likely area for the emergence of new technologies. Current tech will result in current FDA lifetime radiation exposure for a 900 day mission. The hope is that the levels of exposure will be reduce by at least a factor of 10 through use of additional shielding. Beyond that, DNA damage mitigations will hopefully emerge. These would include prophylactic cancer treatments to systemically kill fast mutating cell cultures, pharmaceuticals that enhance immune functions, or help protect against viable DNA mutations. Improved cancer detection through better scanning methods or improved differential scan comparisons.

Novel techniques may emerge with regard to materials recycling.

Novel materials may emerge to improve on board fabrication and maintenance

Novel techniques for low impulse orbital maneuvers will likely emerge.

Novel methods for micrometeorite detection will likely be developed.

Novel methods for CME detection or other high energy radiation events. This will allow crew to shelter in highly shielded area until these episodes pass.

Novel methods of active radiation shielding like magnetic or electrostatic field generation, will likely be developed.


On Orbit Integration and Assembly

Orbital assembly techniques are going to be very similar to those used for ISS integration and assembly. One weak point in the current FOLDINGSS plan is the relatively long orbital stays of assembly personnel. Possibly some modifications to the timeline can reduce or mitigate this weakness.

The robotic arms of the habitat and eventually, the drive sections are used to capture modules from their upper stage boosters and manipulate them into place. The CBM wings will facilitate finer detail mating and the CBMa drives will accomplish the mechanical interconnect and pressure seals.

CBM auxillary connections will need to be standardized and fabricated for the FOLDINGSS program. There may be some additional plugging and screwing that needs to take place both in pressurized spaces and external to the craft. This will necessitate some EVA work.

Likewise Habitat bracing will require EVA work for connection.

Drive section solar arrays will need EVAs for connection and installation.


Mission Control

Given the duration of the FOLDINGSS program, a dedicated facility for mission control will be required. The nature of the program will place capable engineering personnel on the spacecraft. A small contingency of support staff will be maintained on the ground. These persons are required to assist with problems encountered or to advise on adhoc improvements. This staff will also be involved in report writing and program reporting to oversight agencies.

Ground based scientists will work with onboard scientists to produce papers and refine experiments as the mission continues.

The vendors who provided equipment for FOLDINGSS may also play a role in continued support during the life of the mission. Reports back to vendors on performance and failures will help them improve their products.


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