A Technical Science Fiction that could easily become Science Fact
by David Buth
In Several Installments
Ten Tank Torus by David Egge
Installment I) Docking and Boarding
Installment II) Life Support and other critical Station Systems
Installment III) Ten Tank Station Torus Tour Proper
Installment I) Docking and Boarding
The flight up on the Constitution was smooth as glass compared to the old Endeavor, the last of the old Shuttles still flying. The Constitution was based on the X-33 Venture Star design. We weren't going to the International Space Station or any of the co-orbiters at 58° this time, we were going to the new International Space University at 23.5° co-orbiting with Port Goddard, the low inclination U.S. station servicing geosynchronous orbit and the moon. Once on orbit, the triangular craft's cargo bay doors opened and the radiators were exposed. In the passenger module we could float free and look out the windows for a few hours while we approched the station.
It was half way through the 45 minute 'night' when we saw the station approach. At first we could see only the blinking navigation lights in the blackness of star strewn space. As we were over the pacific only the occasional flash of lightning relieved the blackness below. Suddenly, the sun backlit the station and filled in the space between the nav lights, its torroidal shape was clearly outlined. The sun would be up soon.
External Axial View of Ten Tank Station
The stocky wedge of the Constitution turned itself flat on to the axis of the station and began docking maneuvers. We had to strap in again before the maneuvering rockets began to fire. We docked at the sunward end of the axis. The shadow end of the station has almost the same layout so shipping can get pretty busy if necessary. After the clanging, metatallic thumpings of the docking were over we heard the faint hiss of pressure equalizing between the ship and the station. A crewman floated into the passanger module and told us we could unstrap and to follow him by twos. We grabbed our luggage and drifted up into the docking tunnel by twos and threes. The sealed, brushed metal dockrings marked the transition from the Constitution's docking tunnel to the Space University's tunnel. The University's tunnel looked the same inside, white fabric covered walls in a tube about 6 feet across but, was considerably longer, nearly 20 feet until we reached the Primary Receiving Room and Station Security.
We were still in the despun section so the first four of us in the group went through the circular gate (which could be closed instantly sealing the rest of the passengers in the docking tunnel) and entered a larger room about 13 feet in diameter.
"Welcome to the International Space University ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mark Danielson and I'll be your Orientation Guide. We're supposed to go through the station by fives so if you could please crowd together a bit we'll get one more person out of the tunnel...there." said a pleasant blue clad fellow as a dark haired woman drifted 'up' at the signal of a young red jumpsuited fellow at the entrance, the larger number of passengers were still in the tunnel which now, for the moment, was the 'floor'. I could see a couple of curious faces peering 'up', out(?) at us through the open gate.
"Now if you'll each give Ms. Nguyen your passports, take your badges and look into the scanner we'll get this show on the road." said Mark jovially.
Though the red jumpsuited Ms. Nguyen was small, she was obviously well muscled and had that no nosense look of security personel everywhere. She carefully examined each passport, noted it on her screen, stamped it with an old style inkpad and rubber stamp and directed us to the retinal scanner near her security panel. The little stamper drifted slowly on its thin chain near her left hand and each passport. The scanner confirmed each of our identities in turn. She then told us each our assigned rooms, gave us a paper map of the station marking the room and clipped on our badges. Once the five of us were finished we each grabbed our flight bags hovering in mid-air nearby and were hustled into a much larger room through a gate which irised open in the 'ceiling'. The thrum of machinery was louder here. When I looked back I could see a new batch of five passengers float 'up' out of the tunnel as a new blue clad Orientation Guide 'dropped' through the open gate in the 'ceiling'. Two more blue clad Guides waited quietly in this new room for the remaining nine passengers to be processed.
Still just over 13 feet in diameter this room was over 15 feet 'tall' or perhaps 'long' is a better term. Equally spaced around the circumference were four hatches, labeled prosaically A, B, C, and D. The latter three led to the microgravity research modules. Each module was four decks or stories "high" and A module being the command and observation module. Each of these 14 foot diameter modules were four decks or four stories tall. On the 'floor' was the gate, now irised closed, to the Primary Receiving Room where the next set of passengers were being processed. On the 'ceiling' was heavy open hatchway opening into a tunnel but, if you looked closely you could see the far half of the tunnel was slowly turning. The hum of machinery came from behind those thick bulkheads. There obviously turned the sunward despin collar.
"Can anyone tell us where we are?" ask our Guide quizing us. I looked at my youngest asistant, I had expected eveyone on my team to know this place backwards and fowards before we arrived. Wide-eyed she opened her mouth to speak but, the dark haired woman beat her to it.
"The Forward Microgravity Node." she said with a light Hispanic accent.
"Dead on." said Mark while my assistant blushed.
"This is also where the non-rotating microgravity section and the docks join with the main part of the station which rotates." He gestured at the spinning tunnel and launched into a medium technical lecture on ferro-magnetic joints I found tedious. My dissertation was on ferro-magnetics. I'm now head of the Materials Science Section of Alcoa. I'll be working on High Strength Titalloy Eutectics in the microgravity labs in preparation for Alcoa's first space factory which will co-orbit with the University. I cut my teeth on ferro-magnetics, I tried not to look bored while I watched the C hatch open and a couple of green jumpsuited people floated out, they dogged the hatch and headed into the station. They glanced our way curiously as they drifted past.
"So, lets head in" said Mark and pushed of the wall towards the tunnel. The hum was even louder in here and gave it a more claustrophobic feel. It was so easy to match spin with the walls of the spin section of the tunnel you hardly noticed it. Behind these bulkheads were the fluid transfer pumps and tanks, the smooth walls almost pulsed with hidden activity. The tunnel opened into one of the largest rooms yet. Four hand rails replaced the tunnel and reached across 15 feet to the far 'ceiling' or rather wall as we were suddenly the ceiling. Mark leisurely grabbed a rail, swung out over the 13 feet of open space and put one foot on the rung of one of the ladders with one leg hanging free and looked down to the floor covered with boxes and crates, some open and people assembling and working on various odd pieces of equipment, all with their heads pointed at us, wrapping around us a full 360°. I've been here before so I smiled nostalgically as my assistants gasped and clumsily grabbed for the hand rails. Five million years of arboreal evolution can't be wiped out that easily. The floor below had less than a fortieth of a g but it was enough to stand in and hold a micro-furnace to the floor. We were in the Equipment Screening Room. This was all stuff from the previous ship docking as well as things slated to return to Earth on our shuttle. It looked like there was enough open floor space for our stuff once the passengers were completely processed.
"Clip your bags to the rails please and we talk about where you'll be working first after your orientation tour of the station. This is..."
"Equipment Screening Room." said my assistant Alisha, interupting Mark clumsily but eager to show she knew.
"Yes" said Mark with a chuckle as Alisha blushed and I rolled my eyes. Mark then dropped lightly to the floor with practiced ease. I dropped with considerably less ease but, my space legs were coming back quickly. The dark haired woman and the small, mousey fellow in our group had dropped like they've flown before. My two assistants had a tougher time, Thomas misjudged the rebound force of his decent almost fell when he bounced up several feet and had to steady himself on some boxes, you were almost as bouyant as if in a pool on earth, just enough gravity to hold you to the bottom. He did antipipate the spin like every one else though. Strange to think only 1 foot or so below the floor was the Axis Hull and then open space. It was already easy for me to look up and see people apparently 'hanging upside down' above me beyond the central rails where our bags floated. Both my assistants were wide-eyed, Alisha seemed okay but Thomas was looking distinctly green. Keeping your stomach calm while talking to people sticking out at odd angles from the 'floor' that curved up into a 'wall' and then over your head was a lot tougher. I had spent quite a lot of time here going over the professor's equipment last time I was here. Now I had the assistants.
"After you've dropped off your bags..." Mark gestured to our clipped parcels still drifting above us. "...in your assigned quarters we'll finish the orientation tour and we can all get back to work. By the time the tour is finished your equipment should be off loaded and in here for your inspection and check out. I hope everyone remembered the maximum size rule or you'll have a tough time getting your stuff out of this room!" he said smiling evilly. Obviously some teams in the past had forgotten. What a scene that must have been! Both of my assistants will be working for hours in here over the next several days.
After we checked out our alotted floor space Mark pointed for us and the others we gather back to where Mark was chatting with someone. He lightly sprang up the twelve feet to the rails above. One by one we jumped up and unclipped our bags and entered the inward tunnel. The lights came on in the dark 6 foot diameter tube and we entered the brightly lit tunnel by twos.
Equatorial Section of Ten Tank Station
August 30, 1999 -