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Austrian design for astronauts at new international space station

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International space agencies, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, have joined forces to build a new space station called the Gateway, which will orbit the Moon, starting in 2025. Vienna-based architecture firm Liquifer has been commissioned by Airbus to design the so-called international habitat module (iHab), the living and working area, and has now presented its first proposal to the ESA. 

The new infrastructure will be used for the intensive research activities surrounding the lunar surface. Its modules require new solutions since the moon is thousand times as far away as the International Space Station (ISS), for instance. The envisaged iHab is also much smaller as the capacities of the rockets available for delivering the parts for assembly in space decrease with longer travel distances. To reach the Gateway, astronauts will embark on a five-day, 250,000-mile journey from Earth. 

Liquifer ©LIQUIFER Systems Group/Damjan Minovski 2019

The iHab will accommodate four astronauts, who will be living and working there for 30 days. When designing the living quarters, the architects have to walk a fine line between utility, design and privacy in space, especially given the narrow technical scope.  In the course of the planning phase, for instance, the volume of the module was reduced, which required changes to the design. Weightlessness, however, also offers some advantages. “Under zero-gravity conditions, every area can be used, including the ‘ceiling’. Therefore, you have more options to design a room,” says architect Barbara Imhof. 

The ESA has asked two teams to submit a first draft design. Liquifer’s three partners- Waltraut Hoheneder, Barbara Imhof & René Waclavicek - can draw on their experience of over 15 years in research and development. Being pioneers in a very small niche market, they stand a good chance of bagging the deal.

Source: ORF; LIQUIFER Systems Group
Photo: LIQUIFER Systems Group/Damjan Minovski 2019

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