Orbital structures

The concept of spaceways depicted in Figure 5.1 is dependent on a capability to manufacture space structures as standard items on a limited production line, much as for aircraft. Although the United States, Japan and Europe have manufactured individual modules for the Space Station over 5 to 10 years construction time, these are one-of-a-kind items, hand-built at great expense. The only nation known to manufacture space structures with standardized components on a limited production line is the former Soviet Union. Figure 5.22 shows one picture of one of a number of orbital station major components being manufactured in a factory in the Moscow area. In this picture the orbital station module is being integrated with its PROTON launcher, at the manufacturing plant, so interface problems can be addressed during the manufacturing process, not later on the launch stand. Each of the modules/ components had different functions, but, like automobiles and aircraft, each was tailored to a specific mission based on installed equipment and a common structural core. The costs and time to manufacture the components were minimized. The organization of the manufacturing line, and the use of standardized components that was gleaned from the plant pictures was quite impressive. The pictures of this plant are now 20 years old. It is not known if the plant or manufacturing capability

Figure 5.22. Large orbital station in final assembly and integration with its Proton booster.

remains in the present Russia. This is the only plant of its kind known to the authors, and it should be the model for manufacturing components for an operational space infrastructure instead of relying on building single, one-of-a-kind custom components. One of the very important observations of the Russian approach to space payloads is that the payload and delivery stage are integrated as a part of the manufacturing process and not left to cause future delays on the launch pad. Note the Proton booster on the right-hand side of the photograph.

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