Though the telerobotic outpost would have no particular need of human habitation, a variety of simple unpressurized structures are likely to be employed, primarily for the purposes of wind and dust shelters creating reduced-dust environments for the repair of robots and the storage of service parts and supplies. On Mars, such simple shelters would also be used as protective shelters against dust storms and regolith-covered shelters might prove necessary as solar flare shelters to shield more delicate electronics. Of course, all these structures must be simple enough that the early outpost robots, with their somewhat small scale, few to no tools, and limited actuator dexterity, can effectively assemble them from parts that can survive the rigors of Rough Lander delivery.
Eventually, as the scale of the outpost increases, there will be increasing human desire to go visit it and use it as a base of support for exploration, despite the fact that there is ultimately rather limited point or practicality to this before permanent habitats are constructed even given the obvious limitations of near-term telerobotics. Consequently, even before the outpost has begun concerted excavation of a permanent subterranean settlement habitat, the same simple structures used for unpressurized shelters in the telerobotic outpost may need to accommodate adaptation into simple pressurized shelters pre-deployed for early human visitors.
In this section we will look at some of the likely types of structures to be employed in the early telerobotic outpost phase. We leave a detailed discussion of the more complex excavated settlement to another section.
Perhaps the simplest and most basic of structures used on the telerobotic outpost, Road Tiles are simple alloy grid panels, similar to a shipping pallet, that link together to form a smooth road surface, leveled on small short legs, with a hollow space underneath. Signs, Lamp Posts, and WiFi Nodes would plug into convenient post sockets. Used chiefly to level rough terrain and minimize the generation of dust from high robot traffic, they would also provide vias beneath them for cables and pipes and would be especially useful as cluster outposts become more complex and the number of cables and pipes too numerous for use of simpler Cable Bridges. Like the Cable Bridges, they would likely include LED pathway lights and additional signal lighting as well as possible motion-activated surface illumination lamps. Should more autonomous robot operation be employed over time, additional electronics could be added to Road Tile to let them serve as active guideways to direct robots along them. Reinforced with inserted load beams, Road Tiles would also be used as short bridges and ramps. They may also serve as the basis of launch and landing pads for Soft Lander vehicles.
Road Tiles may serve as the basis of the first simple shed structures by adapting them to interconnect vertically as well as horizontally –rather like office partitions- and to employ a contiguous rather than grilled or slatted surface. They would be limited to small simple box shapes like the Pop-Ups but could be fairly diverse in layout. These could also serve as stationary storage bins or as dams when excavating loose granular materials and could allow for the construction of terraced regolith barriers or to contain loose regolith coverings over other types of shelters, allowing for more compact outpost layouts.
The simplest of deployable shelter structures, Pop-Ups would be simple deployable containers designed to use Road Tiles as a foundation by plugging into their post-hole sockets. Perhaps as simple as a folding box made of corrugated and metalized carbon fiber panel or an accordion structure in a simple box shape, Pop-Ups would be relatively small and, in their largest size, just large enough to contain Workstations and their supporting storage racks. Their primary use would be service components storage. Some Pop-Ups may be designed for attachment to flat bed transport robots, serving like simple cargo containers or bins, and they may even be used as individual garages for smaller robots.
Named for inventor and architect Chuck Hoberman who has devised a vast assortment of self-expanding articulated frame structures, these are self-deploying shelter structures that may be among the first large shelters used by the telerobotic outpost. Optionally using Road Tiles as a foundation, Hoberman shelters would unfold into shape through the activation of a small motor and may employ pre-installed folded metalized tension membranes as an outer skin or overlapping modular retrofit panels applied after the frame is expanded. They would likely employ small dome shapes, apses, or arched vaults. While offering the great advantage of self-deployment, Hoberman Shelters are intricate and less resilient than other forms of structure and must be packaged and transported as a whole unit, which may be limited in scale by the limits of whole unit payloads delivered by Rough Lander.
Corrugated Arch StructuresEdit
Commonly employed in agriculture and industry, arched sheds or Quonset huts made of corrugated alloy arch panels are one of the simplest forms of structures and very likely to see use in the telerobotic outpost. Their key virtue is that a single panel component can be used to make free-standing structures of large span and unlimited length. Their chief limitation is payload mass and bulk compared to other structures, however early forms may rely on metalized corrugated carbon fiber panels, saving much mass at a compromise in rigidity. These structures are also extremely well suited to covering with regolith and so would likely be employed as Flare Shelters, providing protection to robots and systems with more delicate electronics.
Corrugated arches are likely to see a variety of applications in the telerobotic outpost. Left open ended or with simple doorways, they would function as Workstation and storage sheds of large size and as parking shelters or hangers for various robots and vehicles. Placed in trenches re-filled with regolith, they would serve as tunnels and covered roadways. Combined with Road Tiles, they would function as support arches for longer span bridges and elevated roadways. They would also likely be used as entry portals for excavated habitats where access to rock faces is obstructed by granular regolith and for stabilizing walls for excavations into less stable strata.
Used extensively throughout the Asgard phase for most every form of on-orbit construction and vehicle assembly, modular component space frame technology is likely to be highly advanced by the time of concerted Avalon development and would be a logical choice of building system, offering approximately equal performance to alloy arch systems and much greater compactness in shipping but at the cost of greater assembly complexity. Most-likely employing variations of today’s conventional ball socket node systems adapted for robotic handling and using Road Tile foundations, a great variety of structural shapes would be possible along with integration of system components retrofitting to nodes and struts, such as lighting, InchWorm robot anchors, and WiFi nodes. Early space frame shelters will likely take the form of simple box, dome, and arch sheds, open on one or more sides and enclosed with advanced architectural membranes attaching to nodes with pass-through connectors providing additional attachment of external retrofit components. Later shelters may feature more complex forms, enclosing more elaborate service facilities or production lines and use combinations of membrane dust barriers and ballistic foam panels, designed to resist micrometeoroid impacts and provide some additional strength through rigid stressed skin characteristics. Thick regolith foam panels providing meteoroid and radiation shielding may be a later development. Though less likely to be employed as regolith-covered structures in the manner of alloy arch systems, space frame structures may be the most frequently used of shelter structures across the telerobotic development and their component sets will likely be re-deployed for many other types of non-enclosed structures and within excavated shelters, as we will explore later.
Self-Assembling Space FramesEdit
The most advanced of space frames, self-assembling space frames are, in fact, robots of a sort whose components feature electric powered actuators and small, networked computers that allow them to move, link up, and interact. There are many variations of this concept with some of the more advanced explored by designer Scott Howe, who has extensively research self-assembly in architecture. Unlike a typical space frame which is composed of node and strut components, a self-assembling space frame features rigid plates with reinforced edges that have connector and actuator ‘fingers’ along their edges functioning like motorized hinges and joints. These allow the plates to traverse each other by flipping over each other and then lock in place when in the desired position, building up a whole structure by themselves from storage stacks. Closed web plates would function as integral cover panels and could incorporate many functional elements such as solar panels and radiators. Even some robotic vehicles could be based on these components.
Currently, this technology is somewhat speculative. No systems exist beyond lab demonstrations. It remains to be seen if the electronics and sophisticated fabrication necessary for these systems can achieve a low enough price, even with the benefit of mass production, to be used in the large numbers even simple structures would require. However, self-assembly from freely mobile modular parts is a powerful capability for a telerobotic outpost and these structures would be capable of most of the applications associated with more conventional space frames –though mostly likely with some compromise in structural performance.
Most likely seeing their first use as the basis of experimental heliostat or electric light based hydroponic farming systems. (focused more on producing industrial materials and phytomining rather than food production) pressurized shelters could also form the basis of initial manned facilities. They would be based on prefabricated pneumatic hull modules, likely similar to those deployed in the orbital Manned Orbital Factory – MOF facilities of Asgard, that are deployed within another free-standing structure such as alloy arches and panel-covered space frame structures. Larger, more advanced, shelters may employ the space-frame supported built-up hull systems used in EvoHab habitats, though plastics and sputtered materials will be more difficult for early outpost robots to handle.
Inside these pneumatic hulls, deployed space frames would provide supports for base and mezzanine decks and host various retrofit equipment –likely using much the same component families later deployed in the excavated permanent settlements. Smaller, more dexterous, robots may be used for basic internal outfitting to the level commonly needed for modular hydroponics systems, but more elaborate installations may require human work. Though potentially far larger, more spacious, adaptable, and repairable than any of the all-in-one lander-habitats commonly considered for manned Lunar and Mars missions today, these shelters would still be quite rudimentary compared to the later excavated habitats and would likely suffer limited duty lives –a key limitation of operating in the exposed surface environment.
Likely to be one of the first domestically produced materials of the telerobotic outpost, Regolete is a kind of homogenously reinforced concrete that would be used as the basis of many later structures including pressurized habitat structures of scales comparable to the excavated habitats. Likely to be developed well into the excavated outpost phase, it would be used with a simple mound-formed construction technique to essentially create the same types of free-standing primary structures as formed with excavation, these simple but massive windowless shells of foamed Regolete (Regolite?) being outfit as habitats in the exact same way as the excavated habitats. This form of structure would be used where excavated shelters cannot be effectively built and would allow excavated habitats to expand beyond the limits of available rock outcroppings. Like later EvoHab structures, they may employ a kind of virtual transparency based on image-corrected light-transmitting fiber optic heliostat systems; opaque from the outside but seemingly transparent from the inside.