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经济学人:充气式宇宙飞船 在轨道上运行时充气膨胀

经济学人:充气式宇宙飞船 在轨道上运行时充气膨胀

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2020-05-15 17:54
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《经济学人:充气式宇宙飞船 在轨道上运行时充气膨胀》内容简介
Science and technology科学技术Inflatable spacecraft充气式宇宙飞船Blown up in orbit在轨道上运行时充气膨胀A plan to use enormous balloons to build space stations一个大量使用气球构建空间站的计划THE International Space Station is mankind's holiday house in the sky.国际空间站是人类的空中度假小屋。Like all such houses, it is a luxury item.它与其他所有类似小屋一样,都是奢侈品。And like many similar projects on Earth, the owners cannot resist tinkering with it.它的所有者会忍不住地想去改进它,就像改进地球上很多类似项目一样。It was in this spirit that, on January 16th, NASA announced that the ISS is to get an extension.本着这样的精神,美国航天航空局在1月16日宣布将扩展国际空间站的空间。This will not, as might have been the case on Earth, be a conservatory or loft conversion.这并不会像地球上那样是一个温室或者改装后的阁楼居室,Instead, it will be a BEAM, or Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.而是一个毕格罗可充气活动太空舱。Robert Bigelow, an American hotel entrepreneur and space enthusiast, has for years been pushing the idea that space stations should be made not of metal but of fabric.美国酒店企业家罗伯特·毕格罗是一位太空爱好者,多年来一直在劝人们接受这样的想法—构建空间站应该用织物而不是金属。That would mean they could be folded up for launch and inflated in orbit.这将意味着,空间站在发射时可以折叠,在轨道上运行时可以充气膨胀。An inflatable space station may sound like the proverbial chocolate teapot,可充气的空间站听起来可能像大家所熟悉的巧克力茶壶。but if you are going to have space stations at all, then inflation is not a bad way of making them.但如果真要建空间站,那么采用膨胀法是个不错的选择。There have been many proposals in the past.过去也曾提出过很多方案。Wernher von Braun, the patriotically flexible developer of the V2 military rocket and the Saturn V moon rocket, sketched plans in the 1950s.20世界50年代,沃纳·冯·布劳恩草拟了初步计划。他热爱祖国,灵活变通,为德国开发了V2军用火箭,为美国开发了土星五号卫星火箭。The Goodyear Aircraft Corporation produced mock-ups in the early 1960s.20世纪60年代早期,固特异航空公司生产出了这样的实体模型。In the 1980s the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory came up with a detailed space-exploration plan which relied on inflatable craft, thus quickly attracting the nickname brilliant condoms.20世纪80年代,劳伦斯利物莫国家实验室提出了一个空间探索的详细方案,由于以充气式宇宙飞船为载体,因而很快获得了非凡的安全套的昵称。And in the 1990s NASA proposed sending astronauts to Mars in an inflatable craft called TransHab.20世纪90年代,美国航空航天局提议用充气式宇宙飞船TransHab把航天员送上火星。Despite the branding possibilities offered by the Livermore version of the idea, Mr Bigelow and NASA prefer the less evocative term expandable module in their literature.尽管劳伦斯利物莫国家实验室关于充气式宇宙飞船的说法已经提供了品牌价值,但毕格罗和美国航空航天局在资料中更倾向使用可膨胀的太空舱,这个术语比较不会让人产生联想。Regardless of the name, however, making spacecraft and space stations out of fabric offers several advantages over the tin-can approach.但不管取什么名字,比起用锡罐建造宇宙飞船和空间站,用织物建造有几大好处。The most important is weight. Inflatable space stations are lighter than metal ones, and even small savings in weight make a big difference to launch costs.最关键的是重量。充气式空间站比金属材质的空间站更轻,即使是减轻一点重量也会大大降低发射成本。Expandable modules may be safer, too.膨胀式太空舱可能也更加安全。Ground tests by Bigelow Aerospace, Mr Bigelow's vehicle for his orbital ambitions, suggest that the module's walls—thick sandwiches of exotic fabrics such as Vectran and Nomex —offer better protection than metal ones against impacts from micrometeors and the increasing amount of artificial debris that is in orbit around Earth.毕格罗航天公司对毕格罗实现轨道飞行梦的工具进行了地面测试,结果表明:太空舱壁面的厚夹层是由独特的织物制成,如聚芳酯纤维和诺梅克斯。比起金属制造的壁面,织物壁面能提供更好的保护,免受微流星和越来越多绕地球轨道飞行的人造碎片的影响。They are also less likely than metals to generate dangerous secondary radiation when bombarded with things like cosmic rays.在撞击如宇宙射线等东西时,比起金属材质的太空舱,膨胀式太空舱产生二次辐射的可能性更小。That is one reason why NASA was interested in using inflatable craft for the months-long journey to Mars.这也是美国航空航天局对使用充气式宇宙飞船进行长达数月的火星之旅感兴趣的一大原因。Nor is the idea untested.充气式太空舱已经有过测试。In 2006 and 2007 Bigelow launched two unmanned versions, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.毕格罗分别在2006年和2007年发射了创世纪1号和创世纪2号两架无人驾驶宇宙飞船。BEAM, which will be bolted onto the space station in 2015, if all goes well, will be the last test of the technology before the launch of the firm's intended commercial product, the BA-330.毕格罗可充气活动太空舱将于2015年装在空间站上。如果一切进展顺利,毕格罗可充气活动太空舱将是该公司发射预期商业产品BA-330太空舱之前的最后一次技术测试。This will offer 330 cubic metres of internal space.充气式太空舱将提供330立方米的舱内空间。At the moment the ISS has a volume of 916 cubic metres.目前国际太空站的体积为916立方米。The firm plans to launch two BA-330s in 2016, link them together in orbit, and thus create a station with 70% of the pressurised volume of the ISS for a fraction of the cost.毕格罗航天公司计划将于2016年发射两个BA-330太空舱,并在轨道上相互连接,从而能用国际空间站增压体积的70%建造一个空间站,费用也是之前建造的一小部分。This first station, dubbed the Alpha Station, will be equipped with laboratory equipment, workbenches and the like.第一个这样的空间站也叫A空间站,将配备实验室仪器和工作台等诸如此类的设备。Bigelow hopes to offer 60 days aboard it for around 26m, assuming that its guests make the trip into orbit on one of the cheap rockets provided by SpaceX, another private space company.毕格罗希望能够提供费用约为2,600万美元在空间站呆60天的服务,假设旅客到轨道乘坐的是由私人太空公司SpaceX提供的廉价火箭。Bigelow hopes in particular to win business from governments without big space programmes of their own.比格罗特别希望能从没有大型空间项目的政府手中赢得业务。To that end it has memoranda of understanding with several, including those of Britain, Japan and the Netherlands.为此,毕格罗航天公司与几国政府签署了谅解备忘录,其中包括英国、日本和荷兰。It is also wooing the private sector, though that may prove tricky.该公司也在寻求私营部门的支持,尽管这可能需要技巧。There has long been talk of the advantages of zero gravity for manufacturing specialised materials whose components are of very different densities, and for growing specialised protein crystals for examination by pharmaceutical companies.长久以来,大家一直都在谈论在失重的情况下,制造组件密度差异很大的特殊材料和培育特殊蛋白质晶体用于制药公司检查的好处。This was, indeed, one of the sales pitches for the ISS. Unfortunately, the private sector stayed away in droves, and the scientific output of the ISS has been pitiful.这实际上是国际空间站的推销说辞。大批私营部门都不参与,而国际空间站的研究成果也是少得可怜。If renting the Alpha Station out as a laboratory does not work, there is always the option of turning it into a holiday house.如果不能把A空间站租出用作实验室,那么可以选择把它改成度假屋。Given Mr Bigelow's background, it is often assumed that this is the plan anyway.考虑到毕格罗的背景资料,人们常常会认为,这至少也是个方案。The firm insists that it is not, at least for now.毕格罗航天公司却不赞同,认为至少现在不是。But who will really be interested in paying 26m to go into orbit remains to be seen.但究竟谁会对花2,600万美元进入轨道感兴趣,目前还不得而知。Inflated space stations are fine, as long as they do not lead to inflated expectations.只要充气式空间站能与预期效果相符,那充气式空间站还是很不错的。

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