Advantages

A concrete space station has the following advantages.

  1. Large mass: An orbiting station is charged with kinetic energy, of which the velocity is a relative factor and the mass an absolute factor. In the event of a collision, a larger mass that possesses greater momentum will always have the dynamic advantage over a smaller one. Reinforced concrete structures have this advantage over less massive structures.
  2. Compartmentalization: One of the strong features of concrete is that it can be cast at room temperature into any monolithic configuration. A concrete space structure should be compartmentalized to prevent total destruction in case the station is hit by something or a fire occurs.
  3. Concrete strength: In near- Earth space, temperature may vary from -200F (-130C) in the dark to + 200 F (+ 93 C) facing the Sun (Heppenheimer 1977). The effect of temperature on material strength is an important consideration in structural design. Some materials soften when heated, and others become brittle when cooled. Figure 39 shows that the strength of concrete heated to 200F (93 C) is practically unaffected (Abrams 1973). And the strength of concrete increases as the temperature goes below the freezing point. Figure 40 shows the strength- temperature relationship for normal weight maintained at 75-percent relative humidity. Surprisingly, the strength at 150F (100C) is 2-1/2 times the strength at room temperature and at 250"F (160C) is 2 times that at room temperature (Monfore and Lentz 1962). [The strength of concrete in an oven-dry condition remains constant in the temperature range from .,250 F (-160 C) to +250F (+120C).}
  4. Heat resistance: Whereas aluminum softens at 600F (320C), concrete is thermally stable up to 1100F (600C) (Harmathy 1979). Its low thermal conductivity and high specific heat make it an excellent heat-resistant construction material.
  5. Radiation shielding: Most radiation energy will be converted into heat energy in the course of attenuation in an exposed body. A simple fact explains why concrete is good for radiation shielding. In general, a hardened concrete consists of 95 percent aggregate and cement and 5 percent water by weight. In the energy released from a fission explosion 97 percent is from gamma rays and 3 percent from fast-flying neutrons. Both aggregate and cement-nonmetallic and inorganic-are excellent materials for absorbing gamma-ray energy, whereas water is the best substance for absorbing neutron energy. Although the percentages for concrete composition are not exactly equal to those for fission energy, they are close to proportional. Because of its radiation-shielding property, concrete is used in the construction of nuclear power plants. Thus concrete would provide a large margin of safety against the hazard of naturally occurring radiation on the Moon.
  6. . Abrasion resistance: In addition to asteroids and meteorites, there are micrometeorites and cosmic dust traveling in space with a relative speed of 25 miles/sec (40 km/sec) (Heide 1964). These microparticles may abrade the surface of the space station because of the enormous differential velocities. Concrete possesses high abrasion resistance, resistance which increases proportionally with concrete strength. The relative depth of a crater made by a microparticle is less in a thick concrete wall than in a thinner wall made of another material.
  7. Effect of vacuum: In a vacuum, the free moisture in concrete may eventually evaporate, but not the chemically bonded water. Figure 39 shows that the loss of free moisture, which generally takes place around 212F (100C), has no adverse effect on concrete strength.

A shortcoming that a pressurized concrete structure may have relates to the airtightness of concrete. To overcome this difficulty, an epoxy coating or other sealant can be applied on the internal surface of the concrete structure.

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