Space architecture: how origami can be used on the Moon and Mars

Space architecture: how origami can be used on the moon and mars

Origami and high-profile textiles are being used for space architecture. They have been used to develop innovative plans for smart human habitats and research stations on the Moon and Mars.

Dr Anna Sitnikova presented the MoonMars project’s origami prototype for space architecture at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin.

MoonMars is a collaboration between the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), ESA-ESTEC, research institutions and textile architect studio Samira Boon.

How can origami be used in space architecture?

For the prototype, origami structures have been incorporated into digital weaving processes by the MoonMars team. They are complex forms which have been sculpted to be compact enough to transport and deploy using pop-up, robotic, or inflatable mechanisms in extra-terrestrial environments.

Sitnikova, who leads the MoonMars team, said: “Origami structures made of textiles can be unfolded into a myriad of different shapes. They are lightweight. They can be easily deployed and re-used in different configurations and sizes for flexible spatial usage. Structures remain functional in changing circumstances, thereby extending their useable life-span.”

High performance textiles and flexible origami provide architectural advantages in space.

These advantages include:

  • The angled facets of origami reduce the risk of incoming micrometeorites hitting surfaces at 90 degrees. They dissipate the energy of impacts and protect astronauts inside habitats
  • Solar panels which are embedded in shape-shifting textiles can gather more energy through the day by following the sun
  • Transparent and opaque facets can change direction to alter climate conditions and internal lighting

Sitnikova added: “Origami for space architecture promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and applications, providing state-of-the-art production and design methods…Habitats enhanced by such structures are temporal and alive as they are able to transform and redefine themselves in resonance with human and environmental factors.”

The Swiss Space Center’s IGLUNA project will test an origami habitat in the glacier above Zermatt in Switzerland in June.

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