Valhalla would be the first purpose-built manned orbital habitat in TMP, the other early manned habitats of the Asgard phase of development likely evolving from initially unmanned facilities. Ironically, the first Valhalla station would be less likely to evolve into a permanent orbital colony than other unmanned stations, chiefly because it would most likely be deployed as a LEO facility, with that location unsuited to very large orbital structures. Long-term, all LEO orbital facilities may ultimately be obsolesced. But with the advent of more convenient GEO access via Bifrost Space Elevator and with enough speculative investment on part of the collective community of TMP terrestrial settlements, a GEO version of the Valhalla could be created specifically as a starting point for a permanent Asgard settlement, leapfrogging incremental development from a MUOL based start. Still, one could measure the ultimate life span of the LEO Valhalla station in the potential tens of decades, given its superior potential for upgradeability and repairability compared to convention space station designs of the present day.
Manned orbital facilities would not be particularly practical in the early stages of Asgard and the Bifrost launch system program. Only with the compelling success and profitability of MUOL, and MUOF projects and routine larger scale Bifrost launch traffic would Valhalla be seen as a viable project. The station, and others in its series, would be built for one or both of two primary purposes; as a specific man-in-space research facility heavily focused on space medicine and settlement self-sufficiency research and the commercial application of space tourism. It would additionally have some of the same potential as an industrial research lab as the MUOL, but would not, by itself, be as cost-effective in that role as that unmanned facility. It would also have long-term potential as a transfer way-station for passenger transit to GEO locations, reusable passenger launch vehicles likely to be limited to LEO and thus the use of other orbital transfer vehicles commonplace for some time until space elevator systems are robust enough to support passenger transit.
Marshal Savage originally envisioned the Valhalla station as a LEO precursor to the development of the GEO Asgard orbital colony, serving as a proving ground for its novel pneumatic hull technology. In TMP2 we envision a similar role for the station, though based on a somewhat different structural technology and with a less critical role in early Asgard development than its unmanned facilities.
The core structural component of the Valhalla station would be a component called the Core Module. This rigid pressurized hub unit would be the primary core connection structure and utility ‘manifold’, the station going through several generations marked by the size and number of ports on this core hub. Having a spherical shape, it would feature a number of hub connector ports arrayed with some form of four-fold symmetry, starting with a cubic 6 port module, then 12 port for the second generation, 24 in the third generation, and so on. The first two or three generations of Core Hub may be single-piece units launched whole. Later ones may be based on a set of components assembled on-orbit like a geodesic sphere, employing on-orbit sealing methods that foreshadow the techniques of large composite hull construction with later EvoHab structures. The virtue of this configuration is that the Core Module is the only component to be topologically locked-in by other elements but any open module end can host a new Core Module for re-assembly of the station as modules wear out. This kind of free re-assembly is key to assuring long duty-life for the station. Initial Core Hubs would feature a simple hollow interior with a modest number of fixtures and service panels on its walls. Later larger hubs may include a central column structure for additional equipment, possibly functioning as a central communication and flight control bridge. The largest would employ a multi-axis truss structure with elaborate retrofit facilities that foreshadows the approach of later habitat designs. This configuration would probably be superseded by EvoHab structures which would initially support the Valhalla type clusters at polar ends.
The initial Core Module would be launched with a utility chassis with deployable solar panels, an Inchworm type robot arm, and several thruster modules and robot anchor modules attached to its ports, making it a largely self-sufficient spacecraft. Subsequently, habitat modules would be delivered to the structure and attached to its ports. These modules would be TransHab-style pneumatic fabric hulled habitat units with a domed end cylindrical shape and featuring an internal space frame to help rigidize them, the space frame parts packed in a small container when the habitat module is folded and collapsed into a compact package for shipment. When deployed, they would be finished with modular retrofit panels and fixtures attaching to this interior space frame.
There would be three basic types of habitat module; a duel-port windowless unit, a windowless single-port cabin unit, and a windowed single-port cabin unit featuring a large polycarbonate domed window at one end. Duel port units would be the most multi-functional of these modules, their opposing ports being used to mount (or shipped with) docking modules featuring integral attitude thruster units and an air lock. These docking modules would be interchangeable, allowing for support of different families of spacecraft as well as specialized automated cargo transfer systems. There would be at least 6 of this type of module in the completed station, one or two used to attach a long utility boom truss from its air lock module which would host solar and radiator panels, telecom systems, the service robot arm, and other externally mounted instrument modules. This truss boom would be made wide enough to allow suited astronauts to traverse its length from inside in order to perform repair and service on the externally attached systems. This combination of dual-port habitat module and truss boom is likely to also become the basis of the first manned spacecraft built on-orbit in the Asgard phase –possibly the first in the family of ‘beamships’ used for a large variety of applications including GEO passenger transfer.
The single-port windowless cabin would be used mostly for work and storage areas. Some may be specialized as large collective systems units, such as CELSS modules or automated farming or factory units. They may also be employed as bulk storage units with special manifolds or pumping units installed in their hatchways, such as water or atmosphere tanks.
The windowed cabin would be used for most human activity on the station and would be the basis of individual ‘suites’ used for space tourism applications. The large dome windows would be a key attraction of the station as a tourism facility. To protect these windows, some type of rigid foam shield clam-shell shutter may be used.
Other more specialized modules may also be employed on the station, usually attaching to one of the dual-port habitat modules. One of the most impressive of these may be a spherical observation lounge designed for tourism applications. This would consist of a large polycarbonate sphere with a single connector port that allows patrons the experience of free-floating in open space while remaining in a shirt-sleeve environment. It would be protected under a large rigid foam panel cover when not in use.
The completed station would have the general appearance of a sort of enormous flower, with its spherical array of habitat modules as petals, its truss boom as a stem, and solar and radiator panels for leaves radiating out from it. Expansion and renovation of the station would be performed by duplication, using a single docking port on the old structure or the opposing end of the truss boom as the starting point for the assembly of a new structure beginning with a new dual-port habitat and Core Module. Over successive generations the station would increase in both the number of habitat modules in this spherical cluster form and the individual size and length of these modules. These progressively larger modules would shift from being individual rooms to being enclosures for built-up structures formed of light components attached to an internal space frame. If the station grows sufficiently, it may eventually shift from the use of multiple small modules around a Core Module to one or a few very large individual but still prefabricated spherical pneumatic hulls with a one, two, or three axis internal core truss to which built-up dwellings and other structures are attached and with smaller Core Module based complexes arrayed at external axial points, thus evolving toward the same structural systems and habitat configuration as the full scale EvoHab.
Should the Valhalla station be started on a primarily research-based premise rather than tourism, it may be initially deployed with a much simpler design. The use of a Core Module supporting a cluster of many individual room modules is premised primarily on the need of the space tourism application to support a hotel-like structure of individual patron ‘suites’ with a high level of privacy and luxury and the use of many windows. But a research outpost facility would not need this, and so could rely more on shared facilities more efficiently deployed with one or a few large unit modules exploiting the largest prefabricated unit size for a pneumatic hull that available launch systems can support at the time. This would result in a likely initial habitat design more akin to the later stages of Valhalla station evolution and the eventual EvoHab architecture.
In this form the Valhalla station would be deployed initially as a single large spherical pneumatic habitat module with 6 hatch/bulkhead modules on three axis. These hatch modules would be equipped much like the hatch ports of the initial many-axis Core Hub of the previous design, using interchangeable modules fitting inside them with some hatchways fitted with removable attitude control units and initial utility modules with one polar end hatch free to host an interchangeable docking port. The habitat module would be some 50-100 meters in diameter, yet still pack into a relatively compact package for single-piece launch. This pneumatic habitat module would be sufficiently large in area when deployed that its surface could be prefabricated with an integral solar ‘blanket’ panel to provide initial power for the structure without deploying additional panels at first. It would also include integral radiators.
The habitat package would be launched alone and left undeployed until met by a second manned vessel, whose payload would be necessary just to supply atmosphere for the large structure. Once deployed and pressurized, the crew of the second launch vessel would assemble a three-axis internal core truss beam from their hatchway outward to the opposing end hatches. Some three meters wide, this would be the primary rigid structure for the habitat and attachment structure for all subsequent features of the station. Subsequent flights would be used to outfit the station. So vast would this space be that many of the interior architectural concepts for use with the eventual EvoHab would be testable within this simple early structure. However, there would be no windows in this structure except very small windows integral to its rigid hatchway bulkheads or fit into its hatchways as removable modules –though at nearly 3 meters themselves these may seem quite large by current standards. This makes it less suitable to tourism applications, even if it’s better suited to just about everything else.
Erecting a MUOL type truss beam from two polar ends on which to attach more solar power, radiator, telecommunications, and other components, as well as adding some dedicated docking port and air lock modules to its axial hatchways, the habitat module would be ready for continuous operation and over time would expand by adding more of the same type of module to the axial hatch points, each module functioning as its own hub in the cluster. This would allow for potentially unlimited expansion in all dimensions as well as in-place replacement of habitat units. However, with a LEO location it is unlikely to expand beyond a few modules, a 27 unit cubical cluster with the addition of some smaller specialized modules likely to be its largest form. Also, its initial module size is likely to be the largest of practical prefabricated pneumatic hulls possible with current or near-future technology and readily launched as a single modest-sized payload package and so any larger scales are more likely to be realized by a transition to EvoHab built-up hull technology. However, it is possible that a sort of pre-Valahalla deployment could be based on much smaller pneumatic habitat modules used as very short-term disposable space stations (Manned Orbital Labs or MOLs) and serving as test-beds for development of the full scale module.
In many ways this Valhalla design mirrors the original Asgard design proposed by Marshal Savage, sans the transparent hull technology that appears unlikely in the near future.
- Life In Asgard
- Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory - MUOL
- Modular Unmanned Orbital Factory - MUOF
- Manned Orbital Factory - MOF
- Asgard SE Upstation
- Asteroid Settlements
- Inter-Orbital Way-Station
- Solar Power Satellite - SPS
- Beamship Concept
- Inter-Orbital Transport
- Cyclic Transport
- Special Mission Vessels
- Orbital Mining Systems
- The Ballistic Railway Network
- Deep Space Telemetry and Telecom Network - DST&TN
- Asgard Supporting Technologies