STIRship Enterprise: a special series on space architecture and design

In STIR’s new flagship series, spaceship designer and entrepreneur Dr. Susmita Mohanty travels the cosmos with an expert’s lens to decode the future of life in space through design.

by Susmita MohantyPublished on : Nov 03, 2021

STIRship Enterprise is a collection of essays to introduce terrestrial architects, engineers and designers to the world of Space Architecture + Design.

The name STIRship Enterprise is inspired by Star Trek. For those of you not familiar with Star Trek, Starship Enterprise or USS Enterprise is the name of several fictional spacecraft used for various television series and films in the Star Trek science fiction franchise.

The first series of essays will focus on human space ferries made by government space agencies and private space companies.

The series begins with an essay about SpaceShipTwo or VSS Unity, a suborbital rocket-powered crewed spaceplane that carried Richard Branson and a small Virgin Atlantic crew to the edge of space and back on July 11, 2021.

The other essays in the series, spread over six months, will feature:

  • New Shepard, a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing, crew-rated suborbital launch vehicle developed by Blue Origin as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism.
  • Crew Dragon, a partially reusable capsule made by SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
  • Shenzhou, a spacecraft developed and operated by China to support its crewed spaceflight program. The first launch happened in November 1999 and the latest Shenzhou variant flew to the third generation Chinese space station Tianhe. Shenzhou previously flew Chinese astronauts to Tiangong-1 and 2, the predecessors to Tianhe.
  • Soyuz, a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program by the Korolev Design Bureau in the 1960s that remains in service today. The Soyuz is the most frequently used launch vehicle in the world as of 2021. It was the human ferry for the former Russian Space station Mir and has been the only ferry serving the ISS continuously since 1998.
  • Gaganyaan-1, the crewed orbital spacecraft being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ISRO plans to fly its first crew of three to Low Earth Orbit in 2023. Later variants will have rendezvous and docking capability.

1. A reusable rocket plane named VSS Unity

Sirisha Bandla at zero gravity on board the VSS Unity 22 Spaceflight | VSS Unity | STIRworld
Sirisha Bandla at zero gravity on board the VSS Unity 22 Spaceflight Image: Virgin Galactic

The first essay in our brand-new series on space design, STIRship Enterprise, delves into the salient design features as well as the sequence of events leading up to the successful July 2021 test flight of Virgin Galactic’s reusable spacecraft - the VSS Unity, and what it means for the future of space travel and exploration.

2. New Shepard: A tourist rocket for suborbital jaunts

Blue Origin’s New Shepard launching on its NS-16 mission, the program’s first crewed flight | New Shepard | STIRworld
Blue Origin’s New Shepard launching on its NS-16 mission, the program’s first crewed flight Image: Blue Origin

The commercial New Shepard suborbital flight experience of a grand 11 minutes is designed to usher in the era of 'casual space tourism’, which many (including myself) believe will have a detrimental effect on the near-earth space environment which is already polluted with millions of man-made debris objects moving at enormous speeds. Unlike in the days of Gagarin and Glen, we cannot treat spaceflight without a good measure of eco-anxiety given the anthropogenic climate crisis that our home planet is now experiencing.

What do you think?

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