Both scientists and science fiction writers have thought about the concept of a rotating wheel space station since the beginning of the 20th century. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky wrote about using rotation to create an artificial gravity in space in 1903. Herman Potočnik introduced a spinning wheel station with a 30-meter diameter in his Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums (The Problem of Space Travel). He even suggested it be placed in a geostationary orbit.
A rotating wheel space station, or von Braun wheel, is a hypothetical wheel-shaped space station that rotates about its axis, thus creating an environment of artificial gravity.
Von Braun Space Station is just a design now but has the potential to become the first commercial space hotel with artificial gravity “operational by 2025 with 100 tourists visiting the station per week”. Designed by the Gateway Foundation, the Von Braun Space Station is resembling a space ship. The structure will consist of two concentric structural rings fixed together with a set of spokes supporting a Habitation Ring made-up of large modules.
According to The Gateway Foundation, the rotating space station will be designed to produce varying levels of artificial gravity by increasing or decreasing the rate of rotation.
The space hotel will have gravity so guests can walk around.
The station will be designed from the start to accommodate both national space agencies conducting low gravity research and space tourists who want to experience life on a large space station with the comfort of low gravity and the feel of a nice hotel. The space hotel will offer 24 space suites with “Earth view” fully operational restaurants, bars and cinemas.
“Some of the space station’s modules will be sold as private residences, wrote businesstelegraph.co.uk, while government and science agencies such as NASA will rent the others.”
An un-pressurized ring structure with docking arms and stabilizers designed to capture and lock in place a visiting spacecraft to unload passengers and cargo. At first there will be one docking port, but later we will add another so that two craft can be docked to the station at the same time. All passenger and cargo access to the station will be through a set of pressurized access tubes connecting the Docking Hub to the Outer Ring Truss.
NASA has never attempted to build a rotating wheel space station, for several reasons. First, such a station would be very difficult to construct, given the limited lifting capability available to the United States and other spacefaring nations. Assembling such a station and pressurizing it would present formidable obstacles, which, although not beyond NASA’s technical capability, would be beyond available budgets. Second, NASA considers the present space station, the ISS, to be valuable as a zero gravity laboratory, and its current microgravity environment was a conscious choice.
More recently, NASA has explored plans for a Nautilus X centrifuge demonstration project. If flown, this would add a centrifuge sleep quarters module to the ISS. This makes it possible to experiment with artificial gravity without destroying the usefulness of the ISS for zero g experiments. It could lead to deep space missions under full g in centrifuge sleeping quarters following the same approach.