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Adaptability of space habitats using the Rhythmic Buildings strategy

Lookup NU author(s): Layla van Ellen, Professor Ben BridgensORCiD, Dr Neil Burford, Professor Oliver Heidrich



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Space habitats, facing extreme conditions in space and on other planetary bodies, should have redundancy and versatility. Although the main challenges in the field have been identified as changes in gravity, radiation protection, extreme temperatures (fluctuations), changes in daylight patterns, and lack of (or less) atmosphere, more (unknown) challenges will inevitably emerge. Therefore, space habitats should extend beyond redundancy and adapt to their surroundings. There are many adaptability strategies for terrestrial habitats but none of these strategies were developed to work in the extreme conditions of outer space. This paper proposes application of a novel adaptability strategy, the Rhythmic Buildings strategy, which aims to develop buildings that adapt to the rhythms of the building’s context (frequency, speed, and intensity of changes occurring on the case study location). The strategy is applied to the case study of a Martian habitat at Jezero Crater. The Rhythmic Buildings strategy includes the Rhythmic Framework and its 33 parameters (such as daylight and outdoor temperature) as well as analytical, technical, and design tools – collectively the Rhythmic Toolbox. First, the Framework tool was used to map the changes in the context following the environmental, economy, and society aspects. The rhythms of the case study context include local temperature, pressure, solar radiation, strong weather events (i.e. storms), but also comfort needs of the crew. These rhythms were then translated into a habitat design using an adapted version of the bubble diagram method. Lastly, novel technologies and materials were selected to address the rhythms which includes adaptive properties of materials. Results of the study show that the context’s most important challenges are the daily temperature fluctuations and weekly crew schedule, while the most promising adaptability opportunity lies in the daily daylight rhythm. The design that followed the Rhythmic Buildings strategy directly addresses nine out of the 33 parameters and indirectly addresses a further five parameters. The proposed Martian habitat utilises the rhythms of daily temperature cycles and the 24 h daylight rhythm to reinforce the materials structures. The habitat is adaptive and responsive to its surroundings and the crew’s needs. In the discussion, speculations are made on how space architecture can develop itself by intrinsically adapting to the rhythms of the environment and evolve into their own typologies, distinctly different than Earth architecture.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Ellen L, Bridgens B, Burford N, Crown M, Heidrich O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Acta Astronautica

Year: 2023

Volume: 211

Pages: 764-780

Print publication date: 01/10/2023

Online publication date: 11/07/2023

Acceptance date: 26/06/2023

Date deposited: 09/08/2023

ISSN (print): 0094-5765

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2030

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.06.045


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Funder referenceFunder name
Research England