So I'm trying to create a sci-fi colony ship for a science discussion that we have in class. So as a sci-fi fan (Hard sci-fi to be exact), I want to portray a realistic ship and not those cliche spaceships we know when we were kids.

Ship Example

So you see those 2 gravitation rings right? An area in which we would have to artificially mimic the effect of gravity to replicate gravity on earth for work and stuff like that. So looking at those rings, each probably contains more than 6 sectors each.

Since colonists will have to sleep, So there would be something like a hotel sector, and a park sector for recrational activities, A cafeteria sector for crews to eat in, as its not like we have to eat while floating, and of course is a laboratory sector for space reasearch stuff, and also the command deck where controls are commanded, and the engineering section for fixes.

So my question is: What other sectors or compartments is needed?

Since i just started learning about the physics of these ships, Im just asking or some help in portraying a realistic take for this.


closed as primarily opinion-based by StephenG, Mołot, Gryphon, sphennings, Mathaddict Jan 3 at 22:35

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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    $\begingroup$ When a question is put on hold, edit it to have it reopen. Don't post another one while deleting the old one. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jan 3 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Also please read the tag description before using them. You used hard science, but it requires scientific evidences which we simply lack for the design of a generation ship. The tag has been replaced by science based. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jan 3 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ For a start, think about the inputs to your home, and the outputs from your home, and follow those chains. For example, you will need to reprocess air, to store extra air (you brought some along, right?), to test air, to analyze air problems, to reprocess water, to process sewage, to store extra water, to dispose of reprocessing output, to test clean water, to analyze water problems. Etc for food, clothing, health and medicine and maternity, schooling, medicine, corpse processing, culture, economy, law enforcement, politics, defense, transport, and much much more. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 3 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ A science module wouldn't neccesarrily be in the ring. The ability to control level of environmental centrifugal pull would be a huge bonus to science work (from zero to well beyond normal) which you don't want tied to living quarters. And ignoring that, makes more sense to have science done in a weightless area as that removes a variable. Further note: Rings may be neccesarry for a station or intrasolar ship to have gravity, but not neccesarry for an interstellar ship: Constant Acceleration/Deceleration can easily take care of that with fewer moving parts $\endgroup$ – liljoshu Jan 3 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ What is the scale of this ship? Layout requirements will be different if you have 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 population. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 3 at 19:23

In general we're moving around from "sectors" like that. If you have a shopping sector and an industrial sector and a housing sector then you end up with people commuting and travelling which is wasteful of both energy and time.

Instead integrated communities with local shops, schools, offices and houses are much more likely - with each having the required mix of facilities.

Especially in a long-term colony ship you can expect it to be set up to resemble a "normal" life as much as possible, so homes with people cooking their own food would be just as common as people eating at a communal cafeteria.

The one thing that might have "zones" would be areas set aside for recreation (parks), wildlife, or environmental purposes such as oxygenation or food production (although hydroponics would likely be important for both of those things).

  • $\begingroup$ Aside from separating industrial activity for safety, hard segregation of areas types does seem weird, almost as weird as individuals cooking. When mass and energy are significant challenges for a generation ship, putting a full kitchen in every dwelling (even the concept of individual dwellings) seems extremely archaic. Shops, offices, houses, and cooking at home are all akin to 1950's thinking that society a thousand years in the future will still be structured around a nuclear family with traditional gender roles. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jan 3 at 20:20

A colony ship, which may or may not be part of a fleet, should resemble an artificial space habitat in the areas not filled with the engines and fuel supply and other spaceship features.

The longer the journey - such as an interstellar journey with slower than light drive - and the more years, decades, or centuries the voyage may take, the larger the inhabited parts of the ship will be and the more the ship will resemble a space colony in a space habitat with a spaceship attached for propulsion.

So it might be a good idea to study several designs for space habitats and decide which features make sense in a presumably interstellar colony ship traveling for years, decades, or centuries to its destination.

The use of giant windows and mirrors to illuminate a space habitat orbiting the Sun at Earth's distance would probably not make much sense in an interstellar voyage where the natural light from the stars might be only a millionth as bright, for example.


Modular main chamber + navigation + hygeine + likely very small personal chambers + growing chamber.

A common mistake is that people try to treat colony ships like flying houses or skyscrapers. A closer (but still not quite there comparison) is an early colony sailing ship with the realization that it doesn't have a world to support it.

Most boats had a main room and a main deck for daily activities depending on whether the weather was nice enough to be inside and outside. It's hard vacuum outside, so the purpose of two main areas is removed, leaving only one. Navigation needs to be seperate purely so day-to-day activities don't interfere with navigation consoles. Since a lot would be automated, probably doesn't need to be very big, but you'd want it because in an emergency, you want to have manual controls if modifying flight plans on a tablet is unworkable for some reason (like power outage). Personal rooms are needed because people snore and they want to store their personal possessions. Depending on space requirements, these may be only a personal locker, and a seperate set of enclosed bunk areas that people switch out of. Otherwise, the main area would likely be adapted to whatever needs are currently needed. People want privacy when on the privvy and you don't want stuff flying around, so they'd probably be seperate. As for growing, plants are kinda messy (parts break off, wilt, decompose, drop fruit, there's juices, etc.) and have special needs (lots of light panels, hydration, nutrients, all automated as much as possible).

Additional potential "messy"/specialty rooms that may warrent their own compartments depending on size of ship:

  • red light area
  • cooking
  • emergency response equipment (medical, hull breaches, fires, etc.), likely placed near center of hub for fast access
  • surgery
  • armory
  • chemical processing
  • 3D printing enclosures

Also worth noting that these are just physical containers. As incorporating VR, AR, into the structure is highly likely due to it's benefits of space efficiency, VR spaces are likely to constantly be created for various purposes (and may or may not have dedicated space for those using them, possibly incorporated into personal spaces).

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    $\begingroup$ Also worth pointing out, that many places will double-up on purposes or be multi-purpose. Unless there's a very good reason, most things won't have dedicated areas. Surgery makes sense due to sterility requirements, armory for danger of the materials stored, etc. But when you have a communal enclosed environment where space is a premium, separation of many things into their own areas doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$ – liljoshu Jan 3 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ This shows a lot of cultural bias. Privacy on the privy? Ancient Romans thought the toilets were great places to socialize, and they were not alone in that. Why have a "red light area"? Puritan morality which should not be assumed for such a culture as would arise on a generation ship. Snoring indicates a medical problem which should be fixed, so not an issue. Lockers are needed if you think people are going to steal your stuff... where are they going to take it? And for that matter, what stuff? $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jan 3 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @pluckedkiwi The author asked for a realistic scenario. As it stands, all the current space-faring nations likely to leave their mark in spacefaring culture are more puritan. Honestly, it'd make more sense from a logical direction that in a climate controlled environment that clothes would be abandoned altogether. Even at the current ridiculous cost of sending stuff up into orbit, however, our space agencies have still left their astronauts wearing clothes. So likely, some traditions will remain. As for privies remaining private, there's a legitimate reason there, and that's... $\endgroup$ – liljoshu Jan 4 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ ... all the liquids involved (both by the person and any by the privy). To put simply, you don't want liquids getting out of a controlled environment and rusting things they shouldn't, shorting things they shouldn't, etc. As for a red light area... again, bodily fluids, plus many people have different preferences so a simple open area doesn't quite work. People may think it may be relegated to people's own quarters, but even though it's claimed people work that way, we really don't, but we try to maintain appearances. And for sleeping, snoring was just one example, people have many preferences $\endgroup$ – liljoshu Jan 4 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ Clothes are both protective and assist in hygiene - they are not just for modesty. And current astronauts are very much fully integrated into current society - a generation ship would be an entirely different environment with its own cultural norms. That they demand absolute privacy when using a toilet should not be assumed. I'm not saying do away with toilets, and I'm not saying toilets have to be in the middle of a corridor, but that it is somehow a fundamental part of human nature that there needs to be absolute privacy when using a toilet is purely a cultural assumption. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jan 8 at 17:15

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