SSDW 2008

Results Pictures

The Space Station Design Workshop 2008 was a very special event, hosted for the second time together with the European Space Agency at their European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Organised jointly between the Institute of Space Systems and the Human Exploration Promotion Division of the Directorate of Human Spaceflight, the workshop featured a close interaction of the students with experts at ESA.

One specific noteworthiness of the SSDW 2008 was its internationality and interdisciplinarity, which was partially enabled through the support of the ESA division as well as through the growing network and visibility of the workshop approach in Europe. 32 participants from 12 European nationalities and various disciplines including not only aerospace engineers, but also other engineering disciplines, architecture, cybernetics, medicine, psychology and physics, worked together and brought their expertise and enthusiasm into the design work.

In two competing teams the participants were tasked with the development of a human space transportation system, dubbed Geospace Exploration Vehicle or GEV, but not necessarily involving only a single vehicle. In fact, both teams came up with very modular solutions, with a main staging point in an orbit about the Earth-Moon libration point 2 (EML2), and very versatile utilisation potential towards LLO access, SEL2 telescope servicing and human exploration preparation towards NEOs and Mars.

The SSDW 2008 program also included work within the newly inaugurated Concurrent Design Facility (CDF), a tour of the ESTEC test facilities, a reception in the Erasmus High-Bay as well as various joint social evening activities with participants and staff in Noordwijk. These events led to increasing team spirit and intercultural communication and networking between the young space enthusiasts in addition to the technical design challenges.

The international and professional response to and interest in the SSDW 2008 results, both of value for the IRS as well as ongoing ESA work, confirmed once again the value of the SSDW approach.


Technology Center (ESTEC) in the Netherlands and heavily supported by ESA experts. Together with the expertise and the well-elaborated workshop concept from the IRS team, the SSDW 2008 fully lived up to the expectations for a great event.

From 13 to 18 July 2008, 32 students from 12 European countries were invited to Noordwijk to combine their motivation and skills to tackle a complex human space mission design challenge. In two competing teams the students with backgrounds in engineering, physics, medicine, psychology, architecture and cybernetics the two teams ran through a busy schedule combining introductory lectures and hands-on team design work, as well as social evening activities which fostered team spirit and motivation after an often tiring day.

Once again inspired by the IAA Cosmic Study “Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space” and combining it with most recent study activities around the world, the teams were tasked with the development of a versatile human space transportation system for missions to the Moon as well as to potential further destinations such as the Sun-Earth libration points (SELs) or Near Earth Objects (NEOs). The scenario assumed a completion of the ISS in 2010 and a growing discussion on redundancy, robustness and sustainability of future activities and particularly transportation systems beyond low Earth orbit. In a European-Russian cooperation, an alternative crew transportation system to the US Constellation program shall be conceptualised to extend human access to space.

This vehicle, the “Geospace Exploration Vehicle”, shall be capable of shuttling from LEO to cis- and trans-lunar destinations. In particular, it shall

  • accommodate a crew of astronauts to LLO to support lunar orbital and surface exploration activities;
  • provide safe and robust crew transportation in cis-lunar space (also for rescue scenarios);
  • allow for repair, maintenance and other life extension actions of telescopes and infrastructures in near-interplanetary space;
  • allow for research activities in preparation of long-distance space flights and human expeditions to Mars.

Both teams, using the SSDW methodology and tools as well as guidance from the experienced SSDW staff, successfully tackled this challenging mission task and presented very detailed and thoroughly analysed designs to fulfill the mission objectives and requirements. The following images, tables and notes give a summarising overview of the design work performed, for more detail on the developed systems please contact the SSDW staff for a copy of the SSDW 2008 Final Report (download available here).

Team BLUE concept:

  • Main Station (MS): Zvezda derived habitation module for 4 astronauts, permanently stationed in EML2 orbit
  • Node: multiple docking element and airlock, permanently stationed in EML2 orbit
  • Lunar Module (LM): Reusable shuttle between EML2 and LLO for 2 crew
  • Earth Module (EM): Soyuz-derived crew transportation from Earth to EML2 and back
Team RED concept:

  • HabLab: ATV/Columbus derived habitation and transportation module for 4 crew, stationed in EML2, can move to LLO and SEL2 together with ETM
  • External Tank Module (ETM): two-stage propellant tank system to enhance HabLab mobility radius to LLO and SEL2
  • Node: multiple docking element with external airlock, permanently stationed in EML2 orbit
  • Crew Transportation Vehicle (CTV): Soyuz derived crew transportation from Earth to EML2 and back

Mission Analysis

Both teams used the Earth-Moon libration point 2 (EML2) as a staging location for their vehicle due to several reasons. The EML2 allows for permanent transfer windows to Earth, Moon and SEL2, namely all important mission destinations for the transportation system in the near and medium term. The propulsive requirements to reach EML2 from Earth are significantly lower than for a direct LLO mission, especially when longer transfer duration (e.g. for cargo delivery) can be accepted. Due to its location on an energetically “high plane” around Earth, missions to the SEL2 region or other interplanetary destinations become available for virtually no velocity change and thus enable both telescope maintenance activities as well as future missions beyond the Earth-Moon system.

The following picture shows a general overview of the transportation concept as outlined by Team RED at SSDW 2008. The depicted mission scenarios include:

1) nominal LLO crew transfer from EML2
2) nominal SEL2 crew transfer from SEL2 (transfer of telescope element to EML2 is also an option)
3) rescue operations to/from LLO via the EML2 station


Life Support System

Due to the system being “only” a transportation concept, long-duration habitability requirements are less stringent for the GEV. However, in order to develop a sustainable and reusable sytem, the life support system shall sufficiently minimise re-supply needs from Earth and allow for contingency operations in terms of time and crew size.

This leads to a closure of the water and air loops, while food is re-supplied from Earth and waste is discarded. The picture below shows the life support system overview of Team BLUE developed at SSDW 2008 together with the necessary components and processes.


Other Material


Team RED


Staff & Experts (Team GREEN)

Preliminary Requirements Review & Preliminary Design Review

Final Presentation / Reception

Group Pictures

ESTEC Pictures