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Lets say you have a space ship. This ship will do a lot of maneuvers causing a lot of G forces to go in different directions through the ship. During straight acceleration it pushes the people inside to the back of the ship. During rotation around its front/rear axis it pushes people outward, during rotation end over end some are pushed to the sides while others are pushed to the front and back etc.

Because it is more interesting for storytelling reasons the ship is not controlled by AI and the more "classical" SF space flight and battles are used with a naval feel to how the ships operate.

The question is:

How do you design a hallway that allows people and small cargo (1m by 1m max) to always travel through it with the most efficiency?

Constraints:

  • people will move only when forces are lower than 2G's.

  • at higher G's people and cargo needs to be able to be fastened and not die by falling or getting slammed by everything.

So far my idea was to use hexagonal hallways. 2 opposite surfaces have ridges inside that form handholds and ladders when gravity pulls you directly down (or up) the hall. The advantage is that you cant trip as easily across these ridges when it is your "floor". The rest of the surfaces are smooth with long T shaped slots going through them.

These slots would allow cargo to slide down the hallway. If gravity changes the weight of the cargo pushes the anchors against its walls preventing it from falling.

But this still seems a bit hamstringed. So I am hoping for a more suitable hallway for space ships that people can move through.

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    $\begingroup$ Just fill your chambers with water and require your crew to wear diving suits, or genetically modify them to breath water. Gravity direction matters very little underwater. ;) $\endgroup$ – Muuski Oct 11 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Muuski - Direction might not matter, but won't there be massive changes in pressure? 15 feet of water @ 2G is one full atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – IronEagle Oct 11 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @IronEagle I think that in zero G the water would have no pressure, which means 1atm is the worst it would get. We would also need a liquid that is not electrically conductive, nor massively flammable. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Oct 11 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Use an elevator. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Oct 11 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Muuski The question implies that the g-forces from maneuvering are felt inside the ship... $\endgroup$ – IronEagle Oct 11 at 23:30
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For one thing, hand holds do no good under high G. I can imagine the person flying down the corridor and going splat against a far wall, followed shortly by his fingers.

I would have very short sections of hall. The farther you can travel the faster you're going when you hit.

Since zigzags would make moving cargo a hideous experience and would really break up usable interior space, let's do what they do in naval ships: bulkhead doors that automatically shut under high G so long as there is no one in the way or better, they are closed by default and only open when under low G and someone/something approaches. These serve two purposes: they shorten the distance someone can "fall" and they minimize air losses from a breach (that can happen even at low Gs). This gives two benefits for the price of one.

For additional protection, have the walls (plus floors/ceilings if those are relevant) of the halls contain padded emergency nooks that people can secure themselves in.

And pad everything you can.

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Forget ergonomic hallway design. Just use Electro-Magnets

All of the interior surfaces within the ship, including all four walls of every hallway are made of magnetically attractable metals. All objects within the ship which are not permanently mounted to a fixed point in the ship, are skinned in a ferrous metal foil.

All crew members are required to wear boots, gloves and a spine-guard which contain strong electromagnets. Toe-buttons, hand gesture sensors and (for the spine-guard) a belt mounted on/off switch allow the electromagnets to be activated and deactivated as needed.

Free moving objects which are likely to unattended at the moment of unexpected maneuvers have their own electromagnetic anchors so they can be affixed to a wall or desk when not in use. Standard ships protocols requires that all unattended objects be secured when not physically held by a crew member.

The sleek and shiny look of futuristic space craft has never been about looks. All those beautiful chrome and battleship gray surfaces are present for safety reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ Even with electromagnets it would be wise to design the shape of the hallways to take maximum advantage of this. How would you design it so that you have the least effort climbing up/down or moving forwards. How high would the ceiling be? How would you prevent the absolutely immense energy requirements for magnetic attraction from impeding easy progress for example? $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 11 at 13:59
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One single cylindrical corridor that spirals the length of the ship.

  • When you're accelerating it's a spiral ramp upwards/downwards
  • When you're rotating then it's "level" (and long)
  • When you're tumbling end over end down is at least meaningful most of the time (though you may have some issues near the centre of rotation).

I will admit that I haven't entirely worked out how to place the doors that come off this corridor. Each room would probably need two doors at right angles to each other off the corridor so at any point one door is across and one is up/down.

Secondary advantage: No clear line of fire for boarding parties.

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    $\begingroup$ Wonderful out-of-the box idea. During rotstion the hallways are on the "left" and right to you. During acceleration they become like an stairs and you still reach a left and right corridor. These corridors would likely form circles around the ship's perimiter and use semi-circular floors like Thucides answered since they wouldnt run the length of the ship with rooms in a similar layout. The "wall" of the spiral could have ridges for hand/footholds and anchor points for enduring high G's. Sounds good! $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 11 at 19:39
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Have the ship designed as one sphere inside another one. When acceleration was applied to the outer sphere strong electro magnets and induction motors on the inner surfaces would rotate the inner sphere in such a way that the accelerating force was always coming from the same direction for the inner sphere.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea but that kind of goes against the naval combat feel. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 11 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes true, sadly I fear that accelerating spaceships don't work that well with a naval combat feel. More like an aircraft feel... $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 11 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Slarty space naval combat is probably less fun than that. Long periods of time in cramped microgravity conditions being irradiated, followed by even longer periods of time being an expanding cloud of gas. Even budget airlines aren't quite that bad. Yet. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 11 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Like a reverse Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime? $\endgroup$ – IronEagle Oct 11 at 22:49
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The SF classic "The Mote in God's Eye" describes some of the interiors of Imperial Navy spacecraft. They rotate about the long axis for spin gravity when not under thrust. The ship could be imagined as a skyscraper or office tower when the engine is running, and a rotisserie when not.

The ship then basically had fittings to move equipment and dog it down on the appropriate surface when the conditions changed. In larger rooms, things like conference tables were retracted into the "floor" prior to despinning the ship, since the table would have a curvature matching the ship's hull so be unusable under thrust. The table would be flush to the "wall" when the engine is running.

Since this is a warship, there is a reasonably large crew (to provide continuous watches, have lots of replacement in case of casualties and man battle damage repair parties), so when the announcement that the ship was de spinning was given, the crew works like a well drilled machine to reorient everything. Hallways would be designed to have two "floor" surfaces, one for spin and one for power, and things like light fixtures, power outlets, switches, maps (you are in Level 5, Section 3) would be placed on the non floor surfaces.

For extra mechanical strength, the hallways might be built out of large tubular sections, so there is no "hard" transition between spin and thrust flooring, and everything else is mounted flush, with handholds build along the "walls" to assist in movement during transition periods and when the ship is not spinning and in free fall. Given the design of the spacecraft, there is likely one or more central "elevator" shafts running parallel to the axis of the ship, "hallways" radiating out at each level and one or more circular "hallways" connecting the "spokes".

One other feature which will be present in any spaceship, civilian or military, is airlock doors which can seal off sections of the hallway or ship in case of a hull breach.

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  • $\begingroup$ Funnily enough the idea for this question came from that book. It was the first time I ever heard of the notion of acceleration alarms for space ships and it left me wondering: the rotational direction of "gravity" is tangental to the acceleration direction, so any floor that holds you during acceleration prevents you from moving along the length of the ship. I like the spokes on a wheel answer with elevator/stairs/ladders along the length of the ship and then hallways radiating to the sides/inside. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 11 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Too late edit: Unfortunately it misses one thing: it focuses on 2 directions, rather than any direction. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 11 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ For practical reasons, spaceship design will likely limit acceleration vectors so designers can reduce the amount of bracing needed to keep the ship intact (since accelerations will be in a very limited number of directions). This also makes the crew's job a lot easier, they simply need to know drills for "Forward is up" (under power), "Outboard is down" (under spin), "Freefall" (no thrust, no spin) and "Variable gravity" (Combat manouevres, where the crew is likely strapped into acceleration couches). $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Oct 12 at 1:00
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Hallways are tiny, and padded.

Each hallway is barely big enough for one person to squeeze along, rubbing arms on the walls as she does. These walls are padded. If a maneuver unexpectedly throws her against the wall she will not accelerate far before the wall stops her - she is already against the wall. Really it would seem like the wall suddenly leaned on her and that is how they can describe it. Halls could be one way or you could pass someone going the opposite direction with an over/under maneuver. Robots using the hall always are the "under".

People move along the halls no matter what is going on because they are not wusses. If stuff gets hairy you wedge yourself in place with arms and legs and wait a second. Getting pushed and pulled as you keep stride is how you get your space legs. The old hands will laugh at the greenie who gets tumbled backwards until he fetches up against a robot, which inquires politely as to his health.

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    $\begingroup$ But what if the gravity is backwards to your perceived orientation, eg, the g forces point up? Wouldn’t it feel like you are trying to walk while doing a hand stand? In that case the person would have to ungracefully shimmy through. There’s still the problem of any space cargo, and it seems like people would probably not get anywhere in a hurry. This is probably the safest option for a hallway, but does not seem very efficient. $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Oct 12 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Enthus3d - walk while doing a handstand! Excellent! Absolutely they would. $\endgroup$ – Willk Oct 13 at 2:36
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    $\begingroup$ And they would have to tie the cargo to themselves with string too. All new recruits must go through a boot camp with acrobatics training to become a part of the space navy xD $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Oct 13 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think your hallway would at least have to be wide enough for two people to pass by eachother if they're going in opposite directions. Especially if the halls are of any appreciable length. Otherwise you're going to bottleneck a lot when people run into eachother mid-hallway. You also might need to accommodate people of greater girth, though the fitness requirements for Space Marines might make that a non-issue. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Oct 14 at 13:21
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So a lot of answers focus specifically on the hallways, and of them, cylindrical passages do make the most sense when considering the orientations that gravity would have on them. They would probably be slightly narrower in radius to prevent out of control bounces following multiple gravity shifts.

The hallways would can have moving rails that help move the crew. Specifically, it would probably look similar to an inside-out drop ride:

enter image description here

Other than the hallway's shape, I would like to focus on the delivery mechanisms of the hallway itself. The crew members would fasten their suit to the back harness and be transported along the rail. By securing the crew flattened against the surface of the hallway, this has the added benefit of protecting them from flying in the event of a sudden combat maneuver (allowing crew to move between sections of the ship even during combat), as well as the transport not relying on the orientation of the crew members. Also, any moving objects can similarly be transported in such a way.

This delivery mechanism also allows multiple crew and objects to be transported at once, without fear of disruptions between crew and objects should a sudden gravity shift occur.

Between hallways, or sections of rail, the crew can secure themselves to areas by way of something like a zipline harness, secured to the walls.

To keep them protected from any harm while transitioning between rails, each crew suit could be fitted with an advanced 'airbag' system, that can protect the upper (and possibly lower) body in the event that they go for a brief flying session. Hopefully, the harness would keep them from bouncing too far. While inflated, the suit could perhaps look like bubble soccer suits.

enter image description here

The advantages of using such a harness and airbag system with a cylindrical hallway would be:

  • The ability to transport personnel even in the middle of intense dogfights with enemy warships, disregarding the amount of G's (unless fatal)
  • Extra protection from broken bones and limbs from sudden impacts and shocks by the airbag system
  • The harness being multipurpose, allowing the crew to secure themselves in the command bridge, have lunch upside down
  • Space veterans get to essentially zip-line and roller coaster through the spaceship at high speeds
  • Multiple rails along the hallways allow for many crew and objects to be transported in parallel, without fear of interference (and concussions from flying objects).
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    $\begingroup$ To be completely honest I created this answer because I thought it would be humorous if a bunch of grizzled space veterans looked like inflated balloons in the bridge after a particularly hard combat maneuver, but if you wanted to preserve the dignity of your story, describing such a situation in a different way would probably be for the best. $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Oct 12 at 2:23
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I think octagon with rope in the center and alternating half walls might work.

A perfectly round, cylinder shape might be hard to get a good foothold, but octagon might be better, because flat land to put feet on.

The rope would let them climb up against gravity prehaps using a ascender type gadget or slide down, i also thought about fire poles, one going each way.

The half walls are would be a metal barrer covering half the passage way than some distance away there is a barrier blocking half the passage way, this will catch falling people and if the barriers are close enough you can climb from metal barrer, however you can avoid it slowing your movement by weaving through the metal barriers.

For the metal barriers, picture a double door with one door open.

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I would go with a large suspended sphere in the centre of the ship. this sphere would contain all of the crew and hallways etc, and would always orientate itself so that the bottom of the hallways was where the g force was being applied towards. this would keep everything upright and good.

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