Sealing a Centrifuge?

Spike Spiegel

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I was thinking about artificial gravity on a spacecraft, particularly a spinning section, and how to deal with pressurizing it. When the entire craft is spun (or a craft with 2 tethered sections that tumbles), no big deal. It's sealed anyway. Same thing when you've got a centrifuge that's contained within the pressurized area of the ship, like the Discovery from the movie 2001.

When you want to use a centrifuge that spins around the axis of a ship that doesn't otherwise rotate (such as the Leonov, the Arrow from DanSteph, and countless other sci-fi movies and series), how the heck do you pressurize the transition area between rotating and non-rotating sections?
 

ATymeson

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I have finally found the answer to your question. I have been equally frustrated by the lack of information on the subject myself. On the proposed Nautilus X spacecraft, the spin hub is sealed using a ferrofluidic seal derived from the Hughes 376 Spin-Satellite. The Wikipedia article on Ferrofluidic seals has a link to an excellent animation that shows how the seal works. I hope that helps.
 

Andy44

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One low-tech option is a rotating airlock, which rotates when "docked" to the centrifuge, and stops rotating to "dock" to the despun section. This device requires people to close one hatch before opening the other; and it limits the sizes of objects you can pass through when the centrifuge is operating. It also requires quite a few moving parts and has a mass penalty, but it's easy to design and construct.
 

Tacolev

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I've seen a few studies that make the hub double as radiation storm cellar so a lot of the mass penalty for an airlock as a separate pressure vessel is already sunk in that case.
 
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