Construction Tips from a Type 2 Engineer: Collaboration with Isaac Arthur

Type 2 Civ Tips!
Type 2 Civ Tips!

By popular request, Isaac Arthur and I have teamed up again to bring you a vision of the future of human space exploration. This time, we bring you practical construction tips from a pair of Type 2 Civilization engineers.

To make this collaboration even better, we’ve teamed up with two artists, Kevin Gill and Sergio Botero. They’re going to help create some special art, just for this episode, to help show what some of these megaprojects might look like.

Continue reading “Construction Tips from a Type 2 Engineer: Collaboration with Isaac Arthur”

Shuttle vs. Soyuz

Size comparison of a Space Shuttle and a Soyuz capsule.


Here’s an interesting illustration showing the size comparison of a Space Shuttle to a Soyuz vehicle, shared on Twitter by NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio (@AstroRM). Amazing to think that three flight-suited astronauts are able to fit inside a Soyuz and have life support for up to a month! (Although I’m sure most hope they won’t have to stay that long.)

Compare the 7-person capacity, 65.8 cubic meter crew cabin of an orbiter to the 3-person, 10 cubic meter space inside a Soyuz and one can imagine how cozy it must get during trips to and from the Station.

Rick is currently in training for a Soyuz flight to the ISS in November of next year as a member of the Expedition 38 crew, at which time he’ll get plenty of first-hand experience with the precise interior measurements of a Soyuz.

Thanks to Rick for sharing this! You can find out more about the Soyuz vehicles here, and check out the full source publication MIR Hardware Heritage (1995) by David S. F. Portree for Johnson Space Center.


Space Travel
Atlantis Breaks Through the Clouds


When a vehicle or robot is designed to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and travel through space, we call that a spacecraft. There are many different kinds of spacecraft, such as satellites orbiting the Earth, robots sent to other planets, orbiting space stations, and vehicles sent to the Moon carrying human astronauts.

The harsh environment of space is hard on spacecraft, so they have to be built to tolerate temperature extremes that dip down hundreds of degrees below zero, and then hot enough to boil water. There’s no atmospheric pressure in space, so any spacecraft carrying humans needs a rigid shell that keeps its atmosphere inside. There is a constant stream of radiation from the Sun and outside the Solar System constantly raining down on a spacecraft, damaging components and raising the cancer risk for any human astronauts.

Spacecraft also need components to be able to travel in space. They require a form of propulsion that allows them to change their trajectory. These can range from traditional chemical rockets to the newer ion drives and even nuclear engines. Spacecraft need some kind of power system, solar panel arrays or nuclear generators. They need a communications system to send and receive signals from Earth. They require an attitude control system, to keep their instruments pointed in the right directions. And finally, they need the specific components to carry out their mission. In the case of the Apollo capsules, these spacecrafts’ mission was to carry NASA astronauts to and from the Moon safely. These means they needed life support systems, navigation computers, and landing equipment. A spacecraft designed to orbit Jupiter will require different components to a spacecraft designed to land on the surface of Venus.

The first spacecraft – the first object to ever leave the Earth’s atmosphere and orbit the planet – was the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1. It launched on October 4th, 1957. The space age began, and many other spacecraft launches followed. The first human to orbit the Earth was Yuri Gagarin, who was carried to space aboard a Soviet rocket on April 12, 1961. The first spacecraft to travel to the Moon was Luna-2, which crashed into the Moon on September 12, 1959. The first spacecraft to safely carry humans to the surface of the Moon was the Apollo 11 mission, which landed on July 20, 1969.

We have written many articles about the spacecraft for Universe Today. Here’s an article about spacecraft propulsion, and here’s an article about the manned spacecraft of China.

If you’d like more information on spacecrafts, here’s a link to NASA’s Official space shuttle page, and here’s the homepage for NASA’s Human Spaceflight.

We’ve recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about the space shuttle. Listen here, Episode 127: The US Space Shuttle.

Source: Wikipedia

Black Hole Drive Could Power Future Starships

Artist's concept of a black hole from top down. Image credit: NASA


What would happen if humans could deliberately create a blackhole? Well, for starters we might just unlock the ultimate energy source to create the ultimate spacecraft engine — a potential  “black hole-drive” —  to propel ships to the stars.

It turns out black holes are not black at all; they give off “Hawking radiation” that causes them to lose energy (and therefore mass) over time. For large black holes, the amount of radiation produced is miniscule, but very small black holes rapidly turn their mass into a huge amount of energy.

This fact prompted Lois Crane and Shawn Westmoreland of Kansas State University to calculate what it would take to create a small black hole and harness the energy to propel a starship. They found that there is a “sweet spot” for black holes that are small enough to be artificially created and to produce enormous amounts of energy, but are large enough that they don’t immediately evaporate in a burst of particles. Their ideal black hole would have a mass of about a million metric tons and would be about one one-thousandth the size of a proton.

To create such a black hole, Crane and Westmoreland envision a massive spherical gamma-ray laser in space, powered by thousands of square kilometers of solar panels. After charging for a few years, this laser would release the pent-up energy equivalent to a million metric tons of mass in a converging spherical shell of photons. As the shell collapses in on itself, the energy becomes so dense that its own gravity focuses it down to a single point and a black hole is born.

The black hole would immediately begin to disgorge all the energy that was compressed to form it. To harness that energy and propel a starship, the black hole would be placed at the center of a parabolic electron-gas mirror that would reflect all the energy radiated from the black hole out the back of the ship, propelling the ship forward. Particle beams attached to the ship behind the black hole would be used to simultaneously feed the black hole and propel it along with the ship.

Such a black hole drive could easily accelerate to near the speed of light, opening up the cosmos to human travelers, but that’s just the beginning. The micro-black hole could also be used as a power generator capable of transforming any matter directly into energy. This energy could be used to create new black holes and new power generators. Obviously, creating and harnessing black holes is not an easy undertaking, but Crane and Westmoreland point out that the black hole drive has a significant advantage over more speculative technologies like warp drives and wormholes: it is physically possible. And, they believe, worth pursuing “because it allows a completely different and vastly wider destiny for the human race. We should not underestimate the ingenuity of the engineers of the future.”

Article available on ArXiv.
Nod to: io9