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Friday, October 14, 2011

Fortuna Rota

In an earlier post about outmigration, I suggested that a classic Stanford torus space station design could be landed onto the surface of Enceladus in such a way that it would spin like a top, generating artificial gravity for its inhabitants.

A few of you have requested that I elaborate a bit on this idea, but I really don't have a lot to elaborate with. The research for a Stanford torus in space has been done exhaustively. In order to effectively mimic earth's gravity, a Stanford torus is a 1.8 km diameter ring turning at one revolution per minute. A torus this size could provide sustainable habitat for some 10,000 people.

Enceladus has a surface gravity of 0.011% of earth's, meaning something as small as a human would be essentially weightless, but gyroscope nearly 2 kilometers in diameter would presumably have enough mass to keep it "on the ground". The surface of Enceladus is fairly featureless ice, so creating a more or less frictionless stylus for the torus to pivot on should be manageable.

Enceladus has relatively vast resources of fairly accessible seawater and heat energy, although we don't yet know what the source of that energy is. So, that's my idea about putting a torus colony on Enceladus.




  1. For those few of you who read this last night after I first posted it, yes, the original post contained a ridiculous math error. It seemed wrong to me at the time too, but when I performed the same (wrong) calculation a second time it yielded the same wrong answer.

  2. We really need to get you a copy of Paintshop. (jk.)

    I think the 10,000 number for this application for a Stanford torus is fairly high. I know it's actually the far lower end of the estimates for an earth-orbital station. But the Stanford model always presumed frequent replenishment from earth, much as we see now with the ISS. Saturn is a long trip for a cargo ship; a colony on Enceladus would need to be much more self-sufficient. A lot more of the torus would then need to be committed to food production. The presence of abundant liquid seawater is a huge benefit, however.

    Assuming the torus was a tenth of a kilometer wide, you would have a little more than half a square kilometer of surface area, which is about 124 acres. I know you've done some research on extremely high-yield crops, what kind of population could that realistically support?

  3. I've thought about that. Because artificial sunlight would be necessary regardless, there's no reason you couldn't have multiple layers or stories concentric to the hub. So an entire layer, or several entire layers, could be devoted to intensive agriculture. For that matter, within reason you could have multiple layers for human habitat as well. It's even possible that aquaculture could happen outside the torus, under the ice. Essentially limitless seawater and energy makes many things possible.