BerandaComputers and TechnologySpace Colony Form Factors, Part 3: The Stanford Torus and Beyond

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 3: The Stanford Torus and Beyond

Core77 is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

    From Space Bagels to Halo

    By Rain Noe
    August 7, 2015

    So far we’ve seen two space colony form factors that arose from a 1975 NASA-backed study. The Bernal Sphere was round, the O’Neill Cylinders cylindrical. This third concept, proposed as part of the same study, is a sort of combination of the two that takes the cylinder and bends it into a circle.

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Known as a Stanford Torus, it’s named after the university where the study took place. The torus shape—I’m guessing “torus” is either Greek or Latin for donut or bagel—provides its gravity by rotating around its hub, and at a suggested 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in diameter could theoretically support some 10,000 people inside. Sunlight would be bounced from mirrors in the hub into the living space, providing the effect of “overhead” sunlight.

    Enter a caption (optional)

    I find the visual effect of being within a large torus more interesting than that of the Bernal Sphere or O’Neill Cylinders; it kind of looks like you’re in a valley that slopes up and out-of-view on either side. An additional benefit versus the O’Neill Cylinders is that with the latter, there is a feeling of finite space; jogging along it, you would eventually reach the end and have to turn around. The torus on the other hand provides infinite scroll, which would make chase scenes more entertaining.

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Here’s a fly-through of what a Stanford Torus might look like:

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Design god Syd Mead famously produced renderings of a Stanford Torus in his concept work for the space habitat in the 2013 sci-fi film “Elysium.”

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    However, space geeks are quick to point out that that’s not technically a Stanford Torus, because as depicted in the movie, the habitat features no “roof;” the inside of the torus is absent and open-air, allowing ships to fly in and out of it.

    That would make it what’s known as a Bishop’s Ring:

    Enter a caption (optional)

    A Bishop’s Ring is essentially a gi-normous Stanford Torus, with the theory being that if it were made from carbon nanotubes rather than steel, a much larger structure could be built: Some 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles, roughly the driving distance from New York City to Miami) in diameter and 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide, providing a livable surface area roughly the size of India. Towering sidewalls stretching 200 kilometers (120 miles) in height would actually obviate the need for a “roof” and the design could be left open-air; science eggheads say the gravity generated would be enough to hold the atmosphere in place, and the open-air design would allow TIE Fighters and such to fly in and out.

    Sci-fi author Iain M. Banks has taken the concept of the Bishop’s Ring and run with it. In his Culture series of novels, Banks envisions something called Orbitals: huge Bishop’s Rings that stretch to 3,000,000 kilometers (1.9 million miles) in diameter, up to 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) wide, containing landmasses the size of proper continents.

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    In Banks’ fictional world, these Orbitals are tilted towards a nearby star, and thus their rotation not only provides gravity, but a proper day/night cycle. The theoretical surface area would be up to 120 times more than what we’ve got on Earth.

    Enter a caption (optional)

    Enter a caption (optional)

    While nothing like an Orbital will ever be constructed in our lifetime, Banks’ fictional creations did inspire a real-life object that many of you may own: A little video game called Halo. That game and its sequels have netted $3.4 billion in sales since 2001. It’s strange to think that a sci-fi author’s imagination unwittingly helped propel the Xbox console to success.


    Rain Noe

      I’m a lapsed industrial designer. I was born in NYC and figured I’d die there, but a few years ago I abandoned New York to live on a farm in the countryside with my wife. We have six dogs.

      K

      {

      Welcome

      Don’t have an account? Join Now

      K

      {

      Welcome

      Create a Core77 Account

      Already have an account? Sign In

      By creating a Core77 account you confirm that you accept the Terms of Use

      K

      Reset Password

      Please enter your email and we will send an email to reset your password.

      Read More

      RELATED ARTICLES

      LEAVE A REPLY

      Please enter your comment!
      Please enter your name here

      Most Popular

      Recent Comments