China is considering how much it costs to send a huge spaceship into space

China is considering how much it costs to send a huge spaceship into space

The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology has commissioned a feasibility study to identify the limits and costs of a vehicle ten times the size of the International Space Station

(photo: ESA / Getty images) On the National Natural website Science Foundation of China, a funding agency controlled by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, has appeared a call for projects for the construction of "large strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources, exploration of the mysteries of the universe and long-term life in orbit ”. In other words, vehicles, space stations and orbital telescopes of gigantic proportions. Given the relatively low budget (only 2.3 million dollars over 5 years), however, it is likely that this is more than anything else a feasibility study, to highlight the problems and limitations of what according to experts would be a real challenge. engineering.

Not quite science fiction

In an interview with Wordssidekick, Mason Peck, formerly of NASA and now professor of aerospace engineering at Cornell University, stated that the idea of ​​building a spacecraft 10 times larger than the International Space Station (ISS) is engineering feasible. Perhaps the main limitation would be money. It would take a lot, considering that something like 100 billion dollars was spent on the construction of the ISS.

Problems and limits would depend a lot on the type of structure to be built and on its purpose. For example, there would be different needs if it were a structure intended to host human beings or "only" a technological platform. A manned spacecraft or space station, in fact, would necessarily require a considerable amount of equipment, with a considerable increase in its mass.

Construction and transport

One obstacle to overcome would be that construction and transport in orbit. The conventional way is to make modules on Earth that are shipped and assembled in orbit. But, Peck ventures, 3D printing technology could change things: one could think of shipping raw materials in compact form to transform them into much more bulky components "on site". Or again, an interesting option would be to obtain the construction material from the Moon, which would be even easier to send into orbit since the gravity on our satellite is lower. Of course, at the moment this route is not practicable because it would require the existence of infrastructures on the Moon, which nobody has.

Another problem to be faced with such a large structure would be to control the vibrations that are generated in the moment in which maneuvers are carried out such as a change in orbit or the docking of another vehicle. For Peck, shock absorbers or active control would be needed to counteract vibrations.

The right orbit

Depending on the purpose, we would have to choose the right height of the orbit in which insert the structure, addressing the problems of the case. At low altitudes, such as the one in which the ISS is located, the resistance of the atmosphere is still encountered, which slows down and forces active adjustments to maintain the trajectory. An imposing structure would be even more subject to the phenomenon than the ISS and would have to be supplied with a large amount of fuel to maintain stable orbit. Positioning at a higher altitude, while resolving atmospheric resistance, would require a greater expense and would have to face greater exposure to radiation - no small problem if it has to host humans.

Better a telescope

The idea of ​​building such an imposing spaceship or space station, according to Michael Lembeck of the University of Illinois, is not feasible from a practical point of view, even for current technological limitations. Even an energy plant to exploit solar energy to be sent to Earth would not be efficient at this time. More interesting, however, is the idea of ​​building an instrument for observing the Universe: a space telescope of one kilometer would probably give the possibility to study the surface of exoplanets by collecting much more information on life outside the planet. our planet.

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