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Billionaire wants to build spinning space station for testing artificial gravity

Capitalism in space: Billionaire Jed McCaleb, who earned billions in software and cryptocurrency, has started a company dubbed Vast to develop and build a spinning space station for testing the pros and cons of artificial gravity.

McCaleb is self-financing at the moment, though he hopes to turn his station eventually into a money-making proposition. His company is also right now very small, but he clearly is going for the best in who he is hiring:

Currently, the company has about 20 employees, including Kyle Dedmon, former SpaceX vice president for construction and facilities; Tom Hayford, a systems engineer who has worked for Relativity Space and SpaceX; Molly McCormick, a former SpaceX human factors engineer and Honeybee Robotics program manager; and Colin Smith, a former SpaceX propulsion engineer. In addition, former SpaceX vice president Hans Koenigsmann is advising the company.

This new private space station joins by my count the four other American private space stations now proposed, including Axiom’s station, a partnership led by Sierra Space building Orbital Reef, Nanorack’s Starlab station, and Northrop Grumman’s upgrade station based on its Cygnus freighter.

That’s five private space stations under development in the United States. And there could be others that I have missed.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • Skunk Bucket

    This is a welcome development. We need to have a better handle on how zero and partial gee environments affect the human body before we start sending people off on years-long missions to Mars.

  • David K

    I really hope we get a partial gravity space station soon.

    But most of the designs I have seen proposed are just too ambitious in my opinion usually operating at moon (18%) or mars (38%) gravity.

    I’d really like to see one operating at Ceres gravity (2%).. Right now all we know is that microgravity is bad and 1g is fine. But does 2% gravity reduce the problems associated with microgravity by 2% or by 90%? It would be really good to know. And you could do parallel tests with one set of astronauts in microgravity for a year and another in 2% gravity and compare the results.

  • pzatchok

    Go to this site and play with the numbers.

    Even ignoring the comfort zone recommendations you will soon realize why size matters.

    Docking is a problem for spinning stations. Though you could design a portion of the central axle that does not spin and thus provides the docking area.

  • Andrew_W

    pzatchok, just three modules in a line connected by access tubes and spun so the central module is at the hub, it doesn’t need a non spinning section for docking, the docking is still at the hub and the spacecraft spins to match the station spin. Having the station in balance is important so that the hub is at the center of mass.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey illustrates docking with a spinning space station well.

  • Michael McNeil: And they did that space station docking in 2001, more than twenty years ago!

  • pzatchok

    Nice movie.

    But it was a movie.

    Whats the surface speed of the docking port at the hub?

    Remember that there are not just going to be small passenger modules docking but very large cargo ships also.

    If all you are going to test is if centrifugal force is enough to stop problems then just tether two equal mass living modules together with a central hub. Spin them up to speed and pay the cables out to the distance you want them to be at for the duration of the experiment. Then pull them back in and slow them down.

    If your going to do something like this either go small and very limited or go huge and able to do experiments for years. And huge has some problems.

    They are already worried about cracks in the docking ports on the ISS and that is a no force except at docking situation.

    Which Space X vehicle will be docking at the station?

  • Andrew_W

    Whats the surface speed of the docking port at the hub?

    Angular velocity is probably 1 – 3 RPM, so speeds at the hub are slow

  • Chris

    I think THIS is the docking with rotating movie clip to watch

  • Jeff Wright

    I prefer a ring station. A long baton station should be wet stage-so as to serve as a fractionating tower for distillation. Unmanned. Remember tall chimneys break about a third of their length when toppled.

  • GaryMike

    A rotating dock port.

    A similarly rotating docking ship.

    Where’s the problem?

    Frames of reference.

    When the equations match….

  • Scott M.

    Speaking of docking to rotating space stations, I’m getting flashbacks to trying to dock in the original “Elite” game. That was…not fun.

  • pzatchok

    Rim conditions
    300 ft diam station
    4.43 rpms
    69.47 ft/sec rim speed
    1 g

    hub conditions
    50 ft diam hub
    4.43 rpms
    11.6 ft/sec hub speed
    .1672 g

  • Andrew_W

    Chris, interesting but very unrealistic, with all that mass lost on one side of the station the center off mass would be far from the central docking port, resulting in the docking port moving in a larger circle about the new center of mass.

  • David M. Cook

    I don‘t like that slot! When I bring my 48 foot winged spacecraft in I would prefer a round hole, clear of equipment like a runway. Post landing, the vehicle would be in zero-G at the center of the station, held by “landing legs”.

  • pawn


    I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

    With all the evidence accumulating over the years that says that humans just can’t handle long term weightlessness this is just about the most practical way of keeping people fit in space.

  • Chris

    I generally agree but I think its the most interesting docking sequence clip in movies

  • sippin_bourbon

    It will have to be strong. Which means a lot of material. Which means a lot of upmass.

    Either he is betting that Starship, or something like it, will be available soon.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “That’s five private space stations under development in the United States. And there could be others that I have missed.

    Five is my count, too. There was the proposed Ixion, for a while, but that was a proposal by Nanoracks to turn spent rocket stages into space stations. I haven’t heard anything about this in a few years, so I suspect that it has been superseded by Nanoracks’s partnership to build Starlab.

    Of course, Bigelow Aerospace has not been heard from since the before times, before the pandemic messed up everything. Bigelow had said, when they closed up for the pandemic, that they would reopen when conditions permitted, but maybe the conditions were not as Wuhan flu related as had been implied.

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