Stanford torus

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The Stanford torus is a proposed design[1] for a space habitat capable of housing 10,000 to 140,000 permanent residents.[2]

The Stanford Torus was proposed during the 1975 NASA Summer Study, conducted at Stanford University, with the purpose of speculating on designs for future space colonies.[3] (Gerard O'Neill later proposed his Island One or Bernal sphere as an alternative to the torus.)[4] "Stanford torus" refers only to this particular version of the design, as the concept of a ring-shaped rotating space station was previously proposed by Wernher von Braun[5] and Herman Potočnik.[6]

It consists of a torus, or donut-shaped ring, that is 1.8 km in diameter (for the proposed 10,000 person habitat described in the 1975 Summer Study) and rotates once per minute to provide between 0.9g and 1.0g of artificial gravity on the inside of the outer ring via centrifugal force.[7]

Sunlight is provided to the interior of the torus by a system of mirrors. The ring is connected to a hub via a number of "spokes", which serve as conduits for people and materials travelling to and from the hub. Since the hub is at the rotational axis of the station, it experiences the least artificial gravity and is the easiest location for spacecraft to dock. Zero-gravity industry is performed in a non-rotating module attached to the hub's axis.[8]

The interior space of the torus itself is used as living space, and is large enough that a "natural" environment can be simulated; the torus appears similar to a long, narrow, straight glacial valley whose ends curve upward and eventually meet overhead to form a complete circle. The population density is similar to a dense suburb, with part of the ring dedicated to agriculture and part to housing.[9]

Stanford tori in fiction

There have been many wheel-shaped space stations in science fiction, perhaps the most famous being the Earth-orbiting Space Station V invented by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick and depicted in Kubrick's 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Some works, however, have structures that more closely resemble the Stanford Torus idea:

  • The novels of the Gaea Trilogy by John Varley are set on an unusual organic satellite of Saturn that is shaped as a Stanford Torus.
  • In the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, most of the many space colonies in Earth orbit are based on the Stanford torus. The anime series Mobile Suit Gundam 00 also depicts Stanford tori-type space stations. The Laplace Residence in Gundam Unicorn is also an example of a Stanford Torus.
  • Hideo Kojima's PlayStation 2 video game Zone of the Enders is set aboard a Stanford torus-type space station orbiting Jupiter called Antillia Colony.
  • The video game Startopia is set aboard a series of Stanford tori.
  • The video game Mass Effect features the Citadel, resembling a large O'Neill cylinder. Arcturus Station, the Alliance capital, however is a Stanford torus, although it is never seen in-game.
  • Saturnalia and A Lion on Tharthee by Grant Callin features SpaceHome, a group of torii space stations connected in a pinwheel fashion.
  • James P. Hogan wrote several novels that included a Stanford torus, including The Two Faces of Tomorrow, Endgame Enigma, and Voyage From Yesteryear.
  • FreeMarket Station, from the FreeMarket RPG is a large Stanford Torus in stationary position near Saturn and home to over 85,000 transhuman individuals. Similar but smaller structures in this setting include Liberty (Earth L5) and Garuda (Mars).

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