Author Topic: Vast, a Startup for "human habitation, first in LEO, and then beyond"  (Read 86245 times)

Offline jpo234

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While looking up former SpaceX space suit expert Molly McCormick (because of the planned EVA during Polaris Dawn) I stumbled across Vast.

McCormick's position "Space Station Engineer at Vast" sounds interesting. Do we know anything about that company (privately held, established in 2021)?

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Why space?

The expansion of humanity beyond Earth is important for many reasons. People crave a frontier, and there is none greater than taking our first real step into space. Humans can perform assembly and repair tasks that robots are nowhere near being able to do. And, we need more resources and the room to use them without destroying our one biosphere—while Earth is finite and fragile, space is vast.

Why now?

We’ve seen visions of large numbers of people living and working in space since the 1950s. But the high cost of launch has repeatedly brought those dreams down to Earth. Now however, that is changing. Launch costs have already come down two orders of magnitude . The impending availability of Starship and other next-generation launch vehicles promises to transformationally reduce the cost of launch even further, enabling much larger structures and grander visions than any current player is proposing. Everyone else is designing for legacy launch vehicles while we’re designing for the scale of what’s next.

When enough people are living, working, and playing in space, the game fundamentally changes: you can assemble huge structures, harvest space resources, repair satellites & space telescopes with human dexterity instead of finicky robots, and develop the vibrant space ecosystem that enables further expansion.

Why Vast?

Space is still dominated by large government contractors with little incentive to take risks, resulting in calcified and expensive designs. SpaceX and other NewSpace companies have demonstrated that agility, first-principles thinking, and approaching problems at sufficient scale can drastically reduce the cost of operating in space. What they have done for rockets and satellites, we will do for human habitation, first in LEO, and then beyond. We have both the monetary resources and the talented team to achieve this vision. Join us.
« Last Edit: 02/18/2022 02:57 pm by jpo234 »
You want to be inspired by things. You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great. That's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and believing the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars.

Offline t.a.george

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While looking up former SpaceX space suit expert Molly McCormick (because of the planned EVA during Polaris Dawn) I stumbled across Vast.

McCormick's position "Space Station Engineer at Vast" sounds interesting. Do we know anything about that company (privately held, established in 2021)?

I had the same question, because of a tweet of hers. Seems like she started with Vast literally yesterday. Hopefully they'll share their plans before too long!

https://twitter.com/Molliway/status/1493332476424458240?s=20&t=HRhF-_Z_irFAvqxuoHdHgw

Offline Robotbeat

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This guy is another ex-SpaceXer (ground support equipment, very hands-on guy, from what I remember) and one of the founding members of Vast, from what I can tell: https://www.Twitter.com/risknc
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline JayWee

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Did anyone take a comprehensive look at the effect of SpaceX alumni on the industry yet?

Offline jdon759

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I note they have v^2/r written at the bottom of their "about us" page. 
This is the right-hand side of the equation for centripetal acceleration (a = v^2/r), so I presume they are thinking about spin gravity.
Where would we be today if our forefathers hadn't dreamt of where they'd be tomorrow?  (For better and worse)

Offline Coastal Ron

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I note they have v^2/r written at the bottom of their "about us" page. 
This is the right-hand side of the equation for centripetal acceleration (a = v^2/r), so I presume they are thinking about spin gravity.

Nice catch! And building a rotating space station is the next logical "Big Step", and is required if we want humanity to start living in space.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Mackilroy

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Vast’s website has undergone an update: https://www.vast.inc/

Offline Mackilroy

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Vast has added two sections to their technology page:
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Artificial Gravity

Vast’s 100m long space station can house a population of 40+.  The station spins to provide Earth gravity at its outer extremities and partial gravity along its length for Mars, Moon, and asteroid analog environments.

Zero Gravity

Vast’s free-floating modules provide large, customizable volumes for customers seeking pure weightlessness with regular access to the amenities and/or personnel available on the spinning station.

Their artificial gravity station sounds as though it would be baton- or dumbell-shaped.

Offline Eric Hedman

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We have both the monetary resources and the talented team to achieve this vision. Join us.
If they have the monetary resources, that would have to be a boatload of cash.  Any idea about who is funding them?

Offline Twark_Main

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They updated their website again, this time they have a picture!! Time for some Kremlinology...


Wow, seriously impressive engineering here.


Looks like the 100 meter long dumbbell station is made from 11 separate modules, each one its own independent spacecraft (see double-line gaps, RCS "dots" ala Axiom). The modules are all ~6 m diameter and ~8 m long, except the core (spin axis) module and one end, which are both ~13 meters long.

This is definitely assuming Starship as its launch vehicle. No surprise since they're SpaceX alums. The basic modules fit neatly inside the 8 m tall cylindrical part of the payload bay, and the longer modules go riight to the edge of the allowed envelope in the Starship User's Guide.

The 6 meter diameter allows
extra space inside the fairing, giving flexibility to easily mount equipment to the outside (like the Chinese space station).

There are 37 visible "rings", so each is ~2.70 m tall. That's 8' 10", so we're probably looking at the "floors" of the station. The astronaut on EVA also gives a sense of scale.

Each standard module has 2 visible "bumps" on either side where each pair of solar panels mount. There are 22-24 total (consistent with 11 modules), but only 18 have PV mounted. The core (spin axis) module has unpopulated mounts, indicating  solar panels are
relocated during the assembly process. The longer end module has four mounts instead of two. Interim power module?

Curiously the "rings" are not symmetrical: there are 17 on the left side and 19 on the right side. The shorter side has the oversized 13 meter module, so it's heavier on that side.

Presumably this is to done balance the asymmetric mass distribution during incremental (one-at-a-time!) assembly, minimize ballast mass redistribution. This might also explain the misfit oversized end module: it switches ends each time, balancing out half the imbalance from adding one-at-a-time vs two.

I see no visible radiator panels. Maybe on the PV backside?

The PV is cantilevered out under "gravity." I wouldn't be surprised if the ends were mutually self-supported by straight tension cables[​s] not visible in this image.

The door/hatch along the central axis is huge. Roughly 3 meters by 3 meters, with rounded corners like CBM.

I still can't tell what the circles and lines on the end mean. I think they might just be artistically-done ellipses, indicating the possible continued addition of modules on each end. They're also asymmetrical — non-androgynous interface? Really guessing here.

I attached the original transparent PNG from their website. I also made opaque versions with both black and white backgrounds so details are easier to see.


Most impressive I'll say! Looks simple, but a lot of thought went into it (like Starship, I suppose).

Anyone spot anything else?

Offline Coastal Ron

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They updated their website again, this time they have a picture!! Time for some Kremlinology...

Wow, seriously impressive engineering here.

I had looked at a baton design quite a while ago, but my assessment was that it is highly unstable for any docking maneuvers. However if they are real engineers (unlike me), maybe they have taken that into account in their designs.

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Looks like the 100 meter long dumbbell station is made from 11 separate modules, each one its own independent spacecraft (see double-line gaps, RCS "dots" ala Axiom). The modules are all ~6 m diameter and ~8 m long, except the core (spin axis) module and one end, which are both ~13 meters long.

This is definitely assuming Starship as its launch vehicle. No surprise since they're SpaceX alums. The basic modules fit neatly inside the 8 m tall cylindrical part of the payload bay, and the longer modules go riight to the edge of the allowed envelope in the Starship User's Guide.

Not sure why they wouldn't maximize the diameter. Starship payload guide shows up to 8m in diameter for a 8m length payload, and when you reduce down from 8m to 6m in diameter you lose more than 2x the volume. Would be interesting to understand their concerns there.

As for the modules, the design that I worked on assumed each module was completely sealed, and then they connected in the middle through a large hatch after being mated. It works rather elegantly, since the ends of the modules would naturally bow out as a pressure vessel, and those two ends meet and cancel out any forces (the outer part of the cylinders take all the connection forces).

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The 6 meter diameter allows
extra space inside the fairing, giving flexibility to easily mount equipment to the outside (like the Chinese space station).

You can always add "stuff" to the outside after launch, so not sure why they couldn't maximize the diameter of the modules. Remember they have to assemble all the modules together anyways, so there will be spacewalks for construction.

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There are 37 visible "rings", so each is ~2.70 m tall. That's 8' 10", so we're probably looking at the "floors" of the station. The astronaut on EVA also gives a sense of scale.

For a 1st generation rotating space station I don't think it makes sense to break out the walls between modules, it would be best to keep each module as independent from a pressure standpoint. And in any case, they will need a big ladder running up the middle in order to travel along the entire length of the station, regardless how "tall" the levels are.

Quote
Each standard module has 2 visible "bumps" on either side where each pair of solar panels mount. There are 22-24 total (consistent with 11 modules), but only 18 have PV mounted. The core (spin axis) module has unpopulated mounts, indicating  solar panels are
relocated during the assembly process. The longer end module has four mounts instead of two. Interim power module?

The image is probably just a generic one for now, so I wouldn't think we should read too much into details.

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Presumably this is to done balance the asymmetric mass distribution during incremental (one-at-a-time!) assembly, minimize ballast mass redistribution. This might also explain the misfit oversized end module: it switches ends each time, balancing out half the imbalance from adding one-at-a-time vs two.

That sounds complicated. The easiest way to assemble the station is to do so when it is NOT rotating. No balance issues, no safety issues. Then you start spinning it up after construction is complete - which is when everything should be working anyways, and they can monitor the actual balance of the station.

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The door/hatch along the central axis is huge. Roughly 3 meters by 3 meters, with rounded corners like CBM.

Again, I wouldn't read too much into the details they have shown, but I would agree it is likely a docking port.

Quote
I still can't tell what the circles and lines on the end mean. I think they might just be artistically-done ellipses, indicating the possible continued addition of modules on each end. They're also asymmetrical — non-androgynous interface? Really guessing here.

Agree, no clue.

Quote
Most impressive I'll say! Looks simple, but a lot of thought went into it (like Starship, I suppose).

Kudos for them getting this far. Space stations will be expensive, so trying to figure out how to lower their cost will be important if we want to expand humanity out into space.

Thanks for making this visible on NSF!  :D
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Mackilroy

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Not sure why they wouldn't maximize the diameter. Starship payload guide shows up to 8m in diameter for a 8m length payload, and when you reduce down from 8m to 6m in diameter you lose more than 2x the volume. Would be interesting to understand their concerns there.
Perhaps to allow them to launch aboard New Glenn as well? Assuming most modules are 13m long and 6m in diameter, then the most recent NG PUG I can find without emailing Blue means it won't quite fit, but if they're slightly smaller (or a bit shorter), then that gives Vast another option.

Offline shintoo

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We have both the monetary resources and the talented team to achieve this vision. Join us.
If they have the monetary resources, that would have to be a boatload of cash.  Any idea about who is funding them?

The founder also founded Ripple, an early (relatively speaking) scamcurrency.

Offline Twark_Main

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I had looked at a baton design quite a while ago, but my assessment was that it is highly unstable for any docking maneuvers.

Why?

Not sure why they wouldn't maximize the diameter.

No need. The challenge is minimizing the minimum viable size, not maximizing it.

I suspect, like I said, that they're taking a page from the Chinese space station. They launched a Mir-clone design but their fairing was larger, so they simply started bolting things to the outside of the vehicle. With no need to protect from aerodynamics during ascent, it buys you a lot of design flexibility.

No need to have disposable fairings for the PV, for example. Multiply that by every external component.

Scott Manley was the one who pointed this out:

You can always add "stuff" to the outside after launch

One of the major lessons of ISS is that assembly EVAs are really expensive.

Remember they have to assemble all the modules together anyways, so there will be spacewalks for construction.

If each module is a separate independent spacecraft, you don't.

Requiring spacewalks for assembly was a choice. ISS chose poorly.

For a 1st generation rotating space station I don't think it makes sense to break out the walls between modules, it would be best to keep each module as independent from a pressure standpoint.

I agree. I think that's what Vast has done. 11 separate modules (double line "gaps") but 37 rings. So each module has more than one floor.

Presumably the floors will be curved, so they stay level. Near the center the curvature would get rather pronounced!

And in any case, they will need a big ladder running up the middle in order to travel along the entire length of the station, regardless how "tall" the levels are.

Of course you need something.

I strongly suspect the 3m x 3m hatch is a peek at the module connecting interface.

The image is probably just a generic one for now, so I wouldn't think we should read too much into details.

Too late! :)

I must disagree. There's too many idiosyncratic details for it to be a stock / placeholder photo.

The public has an idea of what a rotating AG space station looks like, and that ain't it. There's plenty of placeholder space colony artwork they could have chosen from.

That sounds complicated. The easiest way to assemble the station is to do so when it is NOT rotating.

I took that as a "given." De-spin station, add / rearrange modules, spin it back up.

What I meant is that this lets them have some spin gravity (but at a lower radius / gravity) even before 100% of the modules are assembled.

It looks like they need at least 3 modules for symmetry (core, "power", and one standard module), so assembly up to that point would be 100% zero-g. After that, the station can be spun up or not, depending on how they want to balance propellant use vs. station utilization.

after construction is complete ... they can monitor the actual balance of the station.

That doesn't sound like the SpaceX incrementalism I know.

Better to buy down some of that major risk
before the station is complete and design changes are almost impossible.

Thanks for making this visible on NSF!  :D

Thanks for all the feedback. Very excited about this one!
« Last Edit: 08/20/2022 10:31 pm by Twark_Main »

Offline Twark_Main

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Just a few numbers:

To reach 1 g on the lowest floor—19½ rings from the spin axis— the station would need to rotate at roughly sqrt(21770763/(130000 pi²)) ≈ 4.119 rpm. Maybe this is false precision. ;)

PV looks to be 2m x 10m x 72, which is 500 kW at 26% and 750 kW at 40%. Average power is half that, using 200-300 kWh of batteries.

Total pressurized volume is 2,800 m³ (100,000 ft³), three times the ISS. Floor area is 1,000 m² (10,000 ft²), excluding the three low-g floors.

No wonder they're talking about 40 plus people. Vast indeed!

The table shows gravity on the floor, and 91.44 cm (36 inches) above it. That's the height of a typical workbench, and the rough center-of-mass of a person.
« Last Edit: 08/21/2022 10:47 am by Twark_Main »

Offline JohnFornaro

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The public has an idea of what a rotating AG space station looks like, and that ain't it.

I'll say.  AC Clarke had it right. 

But:

The Vast prototype could be one of the spokes of a ring station.  The central hub doesn't look right, however.

According to SpinCalc, it would have to rotate at 4.23 rpm to achieve one gee at either end.  This seems to be a reasonable rotation rate, per the attached paper.  Docking maneuvers at the center of gravity would be hard to achieve.  Maybe there's a large rotating bearing which allows the port to present a non-rotating surface.
« Last Edit: 08/21/2022 05:40 pm by JohnFornaro »
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Coastal Ron

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Not sure why they wouldn't maximize the diameter. Starship payload guide shows up to 8m in diameter for a 8m length payload, and when you reduce down from 8m to 6m in diameter you lose more than 2x the volume. Would be interesting to understand their concerns there.
Perhaps to allow them to launch aboard New Glenn as well? Assuming most modules are 13m long and 6m in diameter, then the most recent NG PUG I can find without emailing Blue means it won't quite fit, but if they're slightly smaller (or a bit shorter), then that gives Vast another option.

Last I looked, and when I was calculating payload volumes based on different sizes of cylinders, New Glenn can carry a 6m diameter x 10.52m long cylinder, whereas Starship can carry a 6m diameter x 13m long cylinder.

And if these are ex SpaceX employees, then I have to think they are betting on Starship being the lowest cost, most available transportation for their project. So if that is true, why not max out the diameter?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline GWH

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The founder also founded Ripple, an early (relatively speaking) scamcurrency.

His LinkedIn says he was only there until 2013, some quick searching lands this article with a bit of info saying he sold the last of his this year:
Quote
The American entrepreneur received 9 billion units of XRP back in 2012 together with other co-founders.

At today's price of $0.44/unit that's $3.96B, XRP hit an extremely short lived peak in Jan 2018 of just under $4/unit. I'd suspect he managed to sell off at a few of the high points.




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Vast’s 100m long space station can house a population of 40+. The station spins to provide Earth gravity at its outer extremities and partial gravity along its length for Mars, Moon, and asteroid analog environments.

This is quite interesting. Has there ever been any research into how the body & mind would respond to constantly changing gravity if one were to be travelling the entirety of the station on a daily basis?

Would be fantastic for research though.
« Last Edit: 08/21/2022 06:27 pm by GWH »

Offline Coastal Ron

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I had looked at a baton design quite a while ago, but my assessment was that it is highly unstable for any docking maneuvers.
Why?

Baton style stations have the end-to-end rotation as their primary axis of rotation, but no natural secondary axis of rotation. Then you have the long cylinder which can "spin" along the long access (call it the 3rd axis of rotation), and there is nothing that stops it from doing that.

So when you have a small vehicle that is coming in to dock at the station, which is a long "baton" that is tumbling, you can use thrusters to orient the dock perpendicular to the axis of rotation, and then some sort of balance system so that the midpoint of the dock is in the middle of rotation for the tumbling "baton". This is the relatively easy part.

The hard part comes as soon as the vehicle attaches to the side of the long cylinder, at which point it becomes a secondary axis, and the rotational forces of the "baton" will act upon the secondary axis to drag it to follow the same path as the primary axis of rotation. It would sort of look like a "Y" configuration, with one very short leg, but all legs (eventually) rotating in the same plane.

However remember that the long cylinder has no natural stop points to rotation, so the only thing keeping the cylinder from now rotating with the vehicle attached to it is the primary axis of rotation, which doesn't really provide a quick stopping point. Meaning that once the vehicle docks, it will start rotating forcing the cylinder to rotate, and the vehicle will no longer be oriented perpendicular to the rotating station, and won't be able to undock easily without getting smacked by the rotating cylinder.

Not sure if I've explained that clear enough, but this is based on the intermediate axis theorem (aka "tennis racket theorem").

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Not sure why they wouldn't maximize the diameter.
No need. The challenge is minimizing the minimum viable size, not maximizing it.

I'm not understanding that at all. Because in that case you'd think they would focus on module length by creating a 3.5m diameter station x 17.24m long modules that can fit in the Starship, and have LOTS of room left over on the outside.

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I suspect, like I said, that they're taking a page from the Chinese space station.

The Chinese space station is based off of the Soviet zero-G space stations, and both of those were designed on limitations that likely don't apply today for 1st generation rotating space stations.

It will be an interesting question to ask the team, when they are ready to take questions...

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You can always add "stuff" to the outside after launch
One of the major lessons of ISS is that assembly EVAs are really expensive.

Everything about the ISS was expensive because A) it was HUGE, and B) it relied on a transportation system that cost (on average) $1.2B per launch. Lower the cost of launch, and use existing crew transportation systems, and EVA's won't be anywhere near as expensive.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline Twark_Main

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Baton style stations have the end-to-end rotation as their primary axis of rotation, but no natural secondary axis of rotation.

This design solves that with large solar panel wings.

I'm not understanding that at all. Because in that case you'd think they would focus on module length by creating a 3.5m diameter station x 17.24m long modules that can fit in the Starship, and have LOTS of room left over on the outside.

Minimum viable size. It's a balance, obviously.

"In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions that the optimum is at an extreme point." https://spacecraft.ssl.umd.edu/akins_laws.html

They don't make it bigger because it's big enough for their purposes. They don't make it smaller because then it would be too small for their purposes.

Seems straightforward. I don't understand the desire to scale (up or down!) just "for scaling's sake.

The Chinese space station is based off of the Soviet zero-G space stations, and both of those were designed on limitations that likely don't apply today for 1st generation rotating space stations.

True! It's also unrelated to my point about exterior design flexibility. ;)

Everything about the ISS was expensive because A) it was HUGE, and B) it relied on a transportation system that cost (on average) $1.2B per launch. Lower the cost of launch, and use existing crew transportation systems, and EVA's won't be anywhere near as expensive.

If launch costs go down, then the cost of everything goes down. So there's still no "competitive advantage" for EVAs.

EVAs aren't expensive because of launch costs. They're expensive because of operational costs (lost astronaut time, planning, safety, etc).

Don't believe me that assembly EVAs are undesirable. Believe NASA: https://nexis.gsfc.nasa.gov/workshop_2010/day2/Sam_Scimemi/ISS_Assembly_Lesson_Learned.pdf
« Last Edit: 08/21/2022 11:11 pm by Twark_Main »

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