Seven Inflatable Space Structures From Science Fiction (Updated)

It makes a lot of sense to use inflatable structures in space; it's the cheapest way to enclose a volume from the standpoint of weight (and therefore cost for delivery from Earth).

As far as I know, the first real proposal from scientists to use inflatable structures in space was from Werner Von Braun's 1952 article for Collier's for a flexible nylon wheel-like space station.


(Von Braun's inflatable space station concept)

Science fiction authors made steady contributions to this area both before and after.

Inflatable Roofed Valley (Robert Heinlein)

From Misfit, Heinlein's first published story (1939), a perfect choice to create an enclosed administrative area on a planetoid moved to a new orbit.

The Captain selected a little bowl-shaped depression in the hills, some thousand feet long and half as broad, in which to establish a permanent camp. This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...

"Is this roof going to be just fifty feet high?"

"No, it will average maybe a hundred. It bellies up in the middle from the air pressure."

"Earth normal?"

"Half Earth normal."

Airtight Tent (Raymond Z. Gallun)

From his 1951 novella Asteroid of Fear, a family tries to set up a temporary shelter on Vesta:

In another minute John Endlich and his wife were setting up an airtight tent, which, when the time came, could be inflated from compressed-air bottles. They worked somewhat awkwardly, for their instruction period had been brief, and they were green; but the job was speedily finished. The first requirement—shelter—was assured.

Inflatable Air Lock (Murray Leinster)

From his 1951 novel Space Tug

The net and the plastic sidewalls were, of course, the method by which a really large airlock was made practical. When this ship was about to take off again, pumps would not labor for hours to pump the air out. The sidewalls would inflate and closely enclose the ship's hull, and so force the air in the lock back into the ship. Then the pumps would work on the air behind the inflated walls—with nets to help them draw the wall-stuff back to let the ship go free. The lock could be used with only fifteen minutes for pumping instead of four hours.

Inflatable Lunar Resort (Philip K. Dick)

From his 1955 novel Solar Lottery:

Corpsmen, dressed in bright vacation colors, were relaxing and enjoying themselves around and in a vast tank of sparkling blue water. Above them a dome of transparent plastic kept the fresh spring-scented air in, and the bleak void of the Lunar landscape out...

Igloo Inflatable Moon Habitat (Arthur C. Clarke)

From his 1961 novel A Fall of Moondust:

...it was now no particular hardship to live in a home that would fold up into a small trunk.

This was one of the latest models - a Goodyear Mark XX - and it could sustain six men for an indefinite period, as long as they were supplied with power, water, food and oxygen. The igloo could provide everything else - even entertainment, for it had a built-in microlibrary of books, music and video... In space, boredom could be a killer...

Inflatable Expansion Bubble (Larry Niven)

From his 1967 story Flatlander.

We were in the expansion bubble when it happened. The bubble had inflatable seats and an inflatable table and was there for exercise and killing time but it also provided a fine view; the surface was perfectly transparent.

Update 25-May-2016:

Space Bubble (Bubb) (Raymond Z. Gallun)

From his 1961 story The Planet Strappers.

"A few millimeters thick, light, perfectly flexible when deflated," Nelsen added. "Cut out and cement your bubb together in any shape you choose. Fold it up firmly, like a parachute—it makes a small package that can be carried up into orbit in a blastoff rocket with the best efficiency. There, attached flasks of breathable atmosphere fill it out in a minute. Eight pounds pressure makes it fairly solid in a vacuum. So, behold—you've got breathing and living room, inside. There's nylon cording for increased strength—as in an automobile tire—though not nearly as much. There's a silicone gum between the thin double layers, to seal possible meteor punctures. A darkening lead-salt impregnation in the otherwise transparent stellene cuts radiation entry below the danger level, and filters the glare and the hard ultra-violet out of the sunshine. So there you are, all set up."

(Thanks to @fredkiesche and @nyrath (Winchell Chung) for tips!) End Update.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/26/2012)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.' MIT Professor David Miller, 1999.

Moon Express Lunar Robot Mining: Shine On, Harvest Moon
'The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine... ' - Pournelle and Niven, 1981.

Asteroid Deflection With DART
'This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism...' Gene Roddenberry, 1968.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.' - Jack Vance, 1962.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.'

Amazon Patents Annoying Robot That Follows You
'The... machine, being homotropic, headed toward them, still bleating...'

Hand Gestures And Body Poses Control Devices
'He waved his hand... the circuit switched...'

Rovable Robots Crawl Across Your Body
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'

Sansar Social Virtual Reality Platform In 2017?
'And just as a daydreamer forgets his actual surroundings, and sees other realities...'

Cellphone Harvests Power From Ambient Radio Signals And Light
A battery-free phone.

Desktopography Makes Virtual Desktops Real
'Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions...'

LaWS Laser Can Take Out Rogue Drones
Looks like a weapon for the Runaway squad!

Moon Express Lunar Robot Mining: Shine On, Harvest Moon
'The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine... '

Liquid Body Armor For TALOS Exoskeleton
'... instantly became rigid all over when something struck it...'

Hyperloop One Video Shows It Works!
'Complete evacuation of the interior of the tubes [and] a wave that provides the new propulsive energy for the cars...'

Chairless Chair Exoskeleton By Sapetti
'Earth's scientists... devised rigid metallic clothing...'

Publishing Technologies In Science Fiction
Well, this should be enough references to start...

Russia Working On Military Exoskeletons
'Вы похожи на большую стальную гориллу...'

3D Printed Bionic Chinese Skin
Your skin is ready!

Flexup Tire Design Good For Tumblebugs
'Each spoke telescopes into five sections.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.