If I try to imagine a time and scale (mass and size) for a first space shipyard mankind would build in next decades, how would it look like in a mostly realistic scenario?

Ships I think of are more or less similar to what we do now, so say Falcon Heavy. So a shipyard would possibly include a steel factory and rocket factory as well as an assembly facility? So not being an engineer, is it something 1500mx10x10m? Date would be realistic 2050s to 2070s taking exponential pace of technology improvements?

To-be place should be in space, not sure what is more realistic, LEO/GEO or an L point.

Purpose is say the mission to habitate Mars with a million of people for the first city mentioned by Elon gets green light.


closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelK, Ash, Vincent, Mike Nichols, RonJohn Aug 7 '18 at 16:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You should specify how you imagine the space ships look like in this time. Are they further developments of todays space shuttle or rocket technology or are you thinking about Star Trek space ships? $\endgroup$ – Elmy Aug 7 '18 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ Flagged as too broad. Its either that or too opinion based. Should be a specific question rather than asking us to design a shipyard for you. If it were the title itself then might be a specific question, but there appear to be a huge number of variables in this and you haven't specified any. $\endgroup$ – BMS21 Aug 7 '18 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly woukd be the purpose/goal/reason to build such a thing in the near future? It all depends on that ... $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 7 '18 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! Do you mean an orbiting space-ship-yard, or one on the ground? If it's on the ground, I've got a feeling the date might be somewhat arbitrary but the design and dimensions would be much easier to figure out (hence, more accurate) $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Aug 7 '18 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the edit. I think it is more reasonable to ask when building a habitat on Mars for that many people becomes viable (for a reason you should perhaps provide, I can't think of any) before asking when to build the space dock for it. Another option that also makes more sense to me would be setting a date for when you want to start colonizing Mars (for some reason) and then figure out when you need to start building the first prototypes and so on for the mission. The purpose is extremely unrealistic for the near future, so I think you need to establish such things for meaningful answers $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 7 '18 at 11:27

Location... LEO,GEO, or Lagrange Point... how about none of the above

This is already being looked at by SpaceX and NASA, both seem to have upcoming missions based on returning to a Lunar Orbit for study, but also to begin the construction of human missions outside of Earth's Gravity



I think their current idea is to test everything they would be sending to the Mars around the moon and then testing it or parts of it on the moon, if it is workable and can support humans long term on the moon, then it can do so on the trip to Mars and on Mars itself.

Size and shape

This is the current idea for Gateway according to NASA from the second linked address

Gateway Station

I think the "first shipyard" won't be a shipyard as most would imagine, it'll be a station, where as parts arrive from Earth they are just assembled together while docked to this small station until its finished. and the station might be expanded to make room for the engineers to build it.

  • $\begingroup$ thanks @Blade Wraith - quite surprising to see that the Gateway should be smaller than ISS! but this possibly allows for more flexibility. $\endgroup$ – J. Doe Aug 7 '18 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Doe, it is surprising, but when you take into account the total living space per person isn't that much smaller and with it being in orbit of the moon not earth means a lot lot less time not in the sun, so the solar panels generate more per orbit. so don't need as many and also less batteries (not forgetting tech advances in those field anyway), when you take all that away, a lot of the actual ISS is drastically reduced in size $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Aug 7 '18 at 13:42

This is a very very broad question and it wouldn't surprise me if it gets closed for that reason.

However I'll take a stab at it.

So far we haven't needed a shipyard because all our spacecraft are assembled on the ground. Equivalent to an inland drydock.

If we want to send ships to mars or further, we're almost certainly going to need to assemble them in orbit from multiple sections. They'll be designed to clamp together like the ISS and be reinforced with structural supports afterwards.

It might be beneficial in such a scenario to have a "Workshop" of sorts which can support the construction crews until the ships are ready to inhabit. Realistically it'd be worth having such a facility for safety reasons too as the construction environment is particularly dangerous.

So in this scenario, the Shipyard would take the form of a single self-contained habitable module, likely a Skylab style facility, Any supplies required for the construction would be tethered to it externally, then the actual spacecraft would be constructed docked directly to it.

Practically if you're going to assemble something in orbit like this, you'll want a few things, Tele-operated arms similar to the Canadarm, most likely more than one of those. Perhaps some form of manned or unmanned "tug" for maneuvering the structural components and starship modules.

It may be worth having a cryogenic fuel pod to store fuel for the ship long-term (it'd be filled in multiple launches and then transfer to the ship when it's time to launch)

Your workshop will need facility to manufacture tools and small components, the ISS currently has a 3D printer for this but you could upgrade that capability with actual machine-tooling for more robust parts.

Practically, this early shipyard will be a small live-in workshop rather than a drydock, and it won't wrap around the ship like the ones in Star Trek, but I think it's the sort of thing you could expect in the next few decades.

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    $\begingroup$ thanks, this goes in the direction I have wished, thanks! $\endgroup$ – J. Doe Aug 7 '18 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ If you truly believe the question is too broad you should not answer it, but rather vote to put it on hold and addressing the OP so that the question can be improved. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 7 '18 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ I should add that good design-practice says that if the ship is going that far afield, it'd benefit from taking its own construction workshop with it, it needs the same tools anyway. So practically the "shipyard" would be less of a distinct station and more like the first module launched for the ship. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Aug 7 '18 at 9:40

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