The principle of topological interlocking in extraterrestrial construction

A. V. Dyskin, Y. Estrin, E. Pasternak, H. C. Khor, A. J. Kanel-Belov

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47 Scopus citations


Applications of a newly established principle of topological interlocking to different types of extraterrestrial construction are considered. Topological interlocking arises when elements of special shapes (usually convex or nearly convex, such that no stress concentration develops) are arranged in such a way that neither of them can be removed from the assembly without disturbing the neighbouring elements. Two types of extraterrestrial structures are considered. The first type represents mortar free structures built from specially engineered interlocking bricks, called osteomorphic bricks. The self-adjusting property of these bricks permits erecting structures which tolerate low precision of production and assembly, thus making the proposed method suitable for in situ produced bricks and low cost assembling machinery. The structures of the second type are modular extraterrestrial bases or space ships organised in topologically interlocking assemblies. For an extraterrestrial settlement such an organisation permits easy assembly even if the modules are uploaded on uneven ground. A space ship can be assembled from independent smaller ships interlocked topologically thus becoming a flexible vehicle suitable for both long-distance journeys and simultaneous exploration of extraterrestrial objects clustered in a relative proximity of each other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalActa Astronautica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support from the Australian Research Council through the Discovery Grant DP0210574 (2002–2004) and Linkage International Grant LX0347195 (2002–2004) as well as from the DFG through Grant Es 74/10-1 is acknowledged. One of the authors (E.P.) acknowledges financial support through an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship 2002–2003.


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