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Using origami to design spaceship fuel bladders

Capitalism in space: Engineers at Washington State University have developed a new design for a collapsible fuel bladder for spaceships using as its basis the Japanese art of origami.

Washington State University researchers have used the ancient Japanese art of paper folding to possibly solve a key challenge for outer space travel – how to store and move fuel to rocket engines. The researchers have developed an origami-inspired, folded plastic fuel bladder that doesn’t crack at super cold temperatures and could someday be used to store and pump fuel.

The advantages of a fuel tank that will shrink as it empties are numerous. It appears that nothing that has been tried so far has worked as well as this new design. If proven viable, it will change radically how interplanetary spaceships are designed. It will also make interplanetary missions more practical.

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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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8 comments

  • janyuary

    What a great read.

    Simple solution to a complex problem.
    Not an easy solution, but a simple one.

  • Rodney

    Should this technology pan out, it should make orbital propellant depots more viable; however, I’m sure the “We must build super monster rockets” crowd will have negative things to say about that.

  • John E Bowen

    Not easy, no. But I think this is the kind of problem domain that benefits from research in widely different areas. I mean, in terms of moving up the technology readiness level (TRL), it seems we’re still taking baby steps. The recent award to SpaceX to transfer fuel by the tonne is great. It is one approach–small thrust produces small acceleration, settles the liquids. But maybe a tank with a built-in piston could compress the origami bladder.

    I also like this quote; there’s a lot of engineering truth to it:
    “The best solutions are the ones that are already ready-made and that you can then transfer to what you’re working on,” Westra said.

  • wayne

    on a related note:

    DeepMind solves protein folding problem: AlphaFold V. 2
    Lex Fridman, December 2, 2020
    https://youtu.be/W7wJDJ56c88
    16:41

  • Jay

    Kyle,
    I am willing to bet they will not “Coug it” at the end!

  • Alex Andrite

    wyane
    Great protein folding link.

    Regarding origami, I recall a similar issue where the Japanese designers used origami for an expanding framework to support a solar array.
    https://www.origami-resource-center.com/origami-science.html

    Much later, I worked with a fellow who was folding cranes for his wedding. As I recall, he had to fold up 100 of them, or was it 1,000 ?
    Ah well, his fingers were sore.

  • wayne

    Alex-
    You would probably enjoy a lot of the people & topics Lex Fridman covers. (He’s an artificial-intelligence genius.)

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