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 ")

Capture Asteroids In A Bag
'... just as a small boy catches a swift ball in his cap.' - VE Thiessen, 1947.

Space 'Hurricane' Has Been Seen
'... it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region.' - AE van Vogt, 1943.

Sole Morphing Astronaut Boots - A New Pair Of Moon Boots?
'It’s an ideal device for kangarooing along in lunar gravity.' - James P. Hogan, 1977.

Mercury Capsule Ablative Shielding
'...a synthetic which air-friction would erode away.' - Doc Smith, 1934.

 

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

Implantable Covid-Detecting Microchip Developed By DARPA
'Employees... were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'

SpaceX Requests Starlink For Starship
'... sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets.'

SF Writers Predicted John Deere Autonomous Tractors
'The huge plow... seemed to shake itself - and began to move back southward.'

DARPA Funding AI Fighter Pilots
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

StoryFile To Help William Shatner Become Landru
"I am Landru. I am he! All that he was, I am."

Telehealth Drones To The Rescue
'A shadow passed over him, and he looked up.'

Capture Asteroids In A Bag
'... just as a small boy catches a swift ball in his cap.'

Sony Pocket Air Conditioner Is Phil Dick's Idea!
'... he went to the hall closet to get his pith helmet and his mandatory cooling-unit.'

Is It Possible To GROW Planes And Vehicles?
'These are your rudimentary seed packages...'

Guard Dog Robot Security Check
'We still use people at the main gates, but here it's an automated sentry.'

Sheepskin Parchment Helped Medieval Lawyers Prevent Fraud
'The single sheet he held, and even the words and signatures upon it, were all integral parts of a single giant molecule...'

Space 'Hurricane' Has Been Seen
'... it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region.'

PR2 Fencing Robot Perfect For Kwisatz Haderach-in-training
'Now, we'll work on your timing. Let me see you catch that thing sinister.'

Sole Morphing Astronaut Boots - A New Pair Of Moon Boots?
'It’s an ideal device for kangarooing along in lunar gravity.'

Mice Gestate In Mechanical Womb
'... in the Decanting Room, the newly-unbottled babes uttered their first yell of horror and amazement.'

3rd Century BC Gold Bee Is Just The Start
Bees knees, I order you to freeze!

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.