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Deep Space Science Vessel Crew Quarters

Rhode Island School of Design / NASA Habitability DesignCenter

Spring 2018


As part of a collaborative, semester-long course between NASA and RISD, a team of students was tasked with creating a design concept for a complete habitation module of a proposed deep space science vessel. This concept would need to fulfill specific requirements outlined by NASA and would be presented to the Human Habitation Design Center team.

Courtesy: NASA Johnson Space Center

The Deep Space Science Vessel

The Deep Space Science vessel is a spacecraft design that had been in the works within NASA for some time and is proposed to be constructed in the late 2030s.The goal is to house a large crew of astronauts for years at a time during missions within the solar system. This craft would primarily be used for scientific research and would serve as an orbital staging facility for crewed exploration.

The two largest modules are located in the center of the vessel and are repurposed fuel tanks from the SLS rocket main stage. One of these modules would be dedicated to scientific equipment and research space while the other would be used for crew habitation. Our task was to use one of these structures and create a self-sufficient habitat to be lived in for years at a time.

Initial Design Requirements

In addition to the dimensional constraints of the repurposed fuel tank, NASA outlined requirements for crew capacity, life-support, mission duration, as well as health and safety.

Crew Capacity

A total of 48 crew members must be able to live in the habitation module. Depending on the specific mission, less may be required. Similarly to the International Space Station, the crew will come from diverse backgrounds from a number of different countries.

Mission Duration

Timeframes for missions aboard the Deep Space Science Vessel are proposed to last anywhere from 6 months to 4 years.


Deep space is one of the most inhospitable environments humans can encounter and ensuring the safety of the crew is paramount in any mission. The habitation module must provide necessary life-support systems to the crew as well as provide exercise facilities to offset the negative effects of a microgravity environment.

Mental Health

Due to the long mission durations that can be expected, mental health is a key component of the overall success of the mission. It is not enough to keep the crew alive, they must also be able to perform their duties and conduct valuable scientific research to justify the mission. 

Initial Layouts

Splitting into more focused teams, the group worked to plan a layout for the habitation module to maximize space, allow easy access to all parts of the vessel, and provide communal and private space for all crew members.

We identified all vital functions of the habitation module and grouped them into decks. Each team would design a deck category and integrate the designs into the overall habitation module. The categories included food/dining, hygiene, individual quarters, and exercise/recreation.

Several elements crucial to the functionality of the module were identified. Passageways, hatches, and clear separation of spaces were deemed necessary for living in and navigating the habitation module.

Final Module Layout

The final layout of the habitation module consists of 9 decks oriented vertically within the module. Due to the geometry of the space, two dome spaces were created to encompass the galley and recreation areas. The activities performed in these spaces require more space as more crew members will need to occupy the space at a time, thus these large domes were allocated to dinning and recreation. 

Galley Deck

The "top" dome of the habitation module is dedicated to the galley. This will serve as a congregation space as well as a food preparation and storage area.

Hygiene Decks

In order to provide lavatory and sanitation facilities to the entire deep space science vessel, there are two separate hygiene decks.

Crew Quarters

The main crew quarters deck space is separated into four sub-decks with an integrated common space. All 48 crew members have their own individual quarters and access to hygiene facilities.


Maintaining muscle mass and bone-density is vital for long-duration missions and exercising is the best way to do so. This deck will contain a variety of exercise equipment designed to work in micro-gravity environments.


The "bottom" dome is dedicated to communal activities and is a mainly open space with adequate storage for recreational equipment.

Initial Crew Quarters Deck Layouts

The layout of the crew quarters decks is vital to the functionality of the entire vessel as this will be one of the most heavily trafficked areas. Maximizing the size of each crew quarters as well as creating both private and communal spaces while maintaining life support capabilities. Several features were identified as necessary such as atmospheric systems, heating, cooling, and storage.

Individual Rooms

8 rooms per deck with enough space for each crew member per room, this layout allows for maximum privacy.

Horizontal Beds

Beds are arranged horizontally on each deck with central storage lockers.

Shared Rooms

4 rooms per deck, each shared by two crew members. Rooms are larger yet privacy is somewhat compromised.

Vertical Beds

This arrangement allows for the maximization of space, however sacrifices nearly all privacy.

Final Crew Quarters Deck Layout

Keeping in mind the privacy needs of each crew member, this layout gives individuals their own space to sleep and have some alone time during the day. Although other configurations allowed for a greater maximization of space and reduced the overall number of decks needed for crew quarters, it was determined that giving crew members their own private space was more important than saving space. 

ECLSS Pillar



Crew Quarter

Hygiene Deck

Module Hatch


Hygiene Deck

Layout Components

1. Crew Quarters
2. Hallways
3. Balcony
4. ECLSS Pillar
5. ECLSS Vent
6. Spiral Handrail













Social Relationships

The final layout of the crew quarters decks reflects a principle of habitation that focuses on three main tiers of privacy in order to maintain healthy social relationships amongst the crew.

Large Space

Areas for the entire crew to congregate at once. Allows for larger social gathering as well as briefings and drills.

Common Space

Focused on accessibility of space. Large open areas allow for ease of movement in emergencies. Allows for smaller social groups to have their own space.

Personal Space

Perhaps the most important space for long-duration missions. Allows for crew members to have breaks from social spaces and gives crew a sense of ownership and personalization.

Sound Abatement

In order to facilitate a sense of personal space and privacy in each crew quarter, sound abatement between rooms is crucial. Sound abatement is achieved through specialized wall panels and doors that work together to create a quiet environment for each member of the crew.

Quilted Interior Blanket

Material Research

- Nomex: Flame-resistant textile.
- Kevlar Felt: Flame/ abrasian-resistant.
- Gore-Tex: High moisture vapor transmission rate.
- BISCO: Noise-abatement foam.
- Durette Felt: Flame-resistant fabric.

Quilted Exterior Blanket

Noise Levels

- Crew Quarters Interior:
Between noise criterion (NC) curves 25 and 40.
- Crew Quarters Exterior:

Between noise criterion (NC) curves 40 and 52.

Wall Attachment Rail
0.5 cm

Panel Gap
1 cm

Breathable Quilted Blanket
0.65 cm

Flame/ Abrasion Resistant Layer
1.25 cm

Sound Abatement Foam
1.25 cm

Wall Panel Design

To ensure repairability and customization, the walls are comprised of separate panel modules connected with joints that allow for different things to be attached to the wall such as handles.

Connector Joint Grid System

Connection points between each panel allow crew members to customize handlebar and sleeping bag positions by hooking and locking onto these joints.

Removable Handlebar

Each CQ shares a wall space with its adjacent unit.

Removable Wall Panel

Inner Wall Hardware


A basic and extremely crucial element of the habitation module as a whole is getting fresh, breathable air to all corners of the living spaces. The ventilation system needs to function passively and provide fresh air to both the common space and individual rooms, all while integrating with the rest of the module.


International Standard Payload Rack Environmental Control and Life Support System for use on the International Space Station.

The current ECLSS volume is 1.6 cubic meters.

ECLSS Pillar Segment

Dual Fans

Air Vents

Exhaust Air

Fresh Air

Crew Quarters ECLSS Pillar

Spans the entire height of the crew quarters and is 1.3m in diameter. 

With advances in technology, ECLSS units will reduce in size and the pillar design can adapt to this. 

Crew Quarters Room Layout Concepts

Giving each crew member a space of their own with the comforts of home is crucial for mental health on long missions. Each room must be configurable for both gravitational and micro-gravitational environments.

Foldable Bed

Stationary Bed with Storage Underneath

Foldable Bed





Foldable Bed and Stationary Desk

This layout offers a great amount of flexibility in both gravitational and micro- gravitational situations. Even with the bed extended, there is enough space in the room.

Foldable Bed in the Center of the Room

Offering the option for a very wide bed, this configuration limits the space that can be used while the bed is extended. Using the desk requires the bed to be folded.

Stationary Bed and Desk with Storage

Offering a balance between free space and and adequate bed and desk size, this option is the simplest to use, however it is not as configurable.

Physical Layout Explorations

In order to determine the best layout, life-sized physical mock-ups were created. These mockups gave a sense of how the space would feel and if there was adequate room for relaxing, sleeping, communicating, and doing light desk work.

In order to determine the best layout, life-sized physical mock-ups were created. These mockups gave a sense of how the space would feel and if there was adequate room for relaxing, sleeping, communicating, and doing light desk work.

Through these mock-ups, it was determined that a layout with a folding bed along a side wall and a desk in the rear with a storage unit was the best use of space for any gravitational configuration. This allows for the most space with the bed folded and allows for the option to use a sleeping bag secured to the wall in micro-gravity situations.

Crew Quarters Design Refinement

Taking the layout mock-up as a starting point, the final design concept was created. This design incorporates all necessary components of the crew quarters.

4. Storage Units
5. Entertainment Screen
6. Air Vents

1. Desk
2. Foldable Bed
3. Bulletin Board

4. Storage Units

Foldable Bed 

The bed can be configured in two positions: one for gravity environments and one for micro-gravity environments.

Gravity Configuration

Micro-Gravity Configuration

Bed Frame
Rests on angled wedges within the wall panels as well as the storage unit in order to keep level and stay supported.

Inside Wall
When bed is folded down, there are no sound panels to absorb noise. However in this area, there is still sound abatement.

Provides enough padding and support while still being able to fold into the wall. In addition, it serves as extra sound abatement.

Designed to accommodate up to the 95th percentile crew members.

Ventilation Flow

Air from the common area is sucked in through intakes towards the top of each room and passed through filters. The air is blown from top to bottom and sucked out from the room and passed through another set of filters at the bottom. Finally the air is pumped back into the common area and sucked into the ECLSS pillar to be scrubbed of harmful gases and re-oxygenated.

The Deep Space Science Vessel Crew Quarters

A full-scale final mock-up of the crew quarters along with the immediate outside space in the common area was created. Each component of the room was finalized in three dimensions to maximize functionality and ergonomics.

Wall Panels

Wall panels offer sound abatement to ensure privacy and are removable to allow for easy repairs and upgrades to hardware inside the walls. The white coloring was chosen for maximum colored light reflection as well as to make the space feel larger.


Almost all work done by crew members is done outside of the habitation module in other parts of the vessel. The desk in each room is designed for more personal uses. There is an integrated wireless charging pad for personal devices, a storage drawer, and a task screen for room control and notifications. 

Task Screen






Bulletin Board

Wireless Charging Pad

Adjustable Stool

Since the crew quarters design must be able to be configured for both micro-gravity and gravitational situations, the stool must adapt as well. This design allows crew members to sit regularly when gravitation effects are present. While in micro-gravity, crew members hook their feet under the bar and pull themselves into a position to access the desk.

Shin Rest/ Brace

Neutral Body Position

Height Adjustment

Swinging Joint

Magnetic Bulletin Board

To make the room a more personal space with options for customization, the bulletin provides individuals with a place to hang special and personal items as well as important notes or sketches. 

Smart Door

To make the room a more personal space with options for customization, the bulletin provides individuals with a place to hang special and personal items as well as important notes or sketches. 

Door Tracks

Facial Recognition Security

Door Folds in on Itself 

Omnidirectional Handle
can be gripped from any orientation

Notification UI for Inside and Outside Screens


From the initial design of the bed, the concept changed from a static mattress to a semi-inflatable design as the previous design proved to be too thin. The mattress is partially filled with foam and the rest is filled with air and pumped up via a central compressor when folded down.


The in-room storage consists of a trash bin, clothing storage, vacuum + compressor pump hook-ups, and a valuables storage locker. Clothing storage is achieved using vacuum bags packed with 4 weeks of clothes per bag. Current NASA guidelines emphasize reusing clothes many times before discarding.

2 Week Bag
Work (x27)

Shirts - 1

Shorts - 1

2 Week Bag
General (x27)

Underwear - 7

Socks - 7 Pairs

Sleepwear - 2

4 Week Bag
Exercise and Warm Clothes (x14)

Shirts - 8

Shorts - 8

Warm Socks - 1 Warm Pair

Sweater/Sweatshirt - 1

Clothing Storage Breakdown Per Year

Most of the clothing for crew members are stored in other cargo modules throughout the vessel and are brought into individual rooms as needed.

As with other parts of the ship, storage will need to be configured depending on the planned mission length. Extra cargo modules can be docked to store more supplies.

LED Lighting


Daytime lighting uses a warm light that gets brighter during the day unless otherwise set by the occupant.

Nighttime Lighting

Nighttime lighting uses a cool light that gets dimmer during the night and can gently shut off when the crew member is scheduled to go to bed. 

Light shifts temperature throughout a 24 hr cycle to simulate day and night cycles on Earth. Since crew members will only be able to tell what time of day it is in their room by looking at a clock, lighting changes give a visual clue to the time of day.

Emergency Lighting

Lighting will change color to flashing red to indicate an emergency situation. Such emergencies may include sudden depressurization of the room or entire module, carbon dioxide buildup, or another hazardous gas buildup/ leak.

Entertainment Screen

This 60 inch touch screen display is the entertainment hub for crew in their rooms. The display allows crew to watch movies, TV, play games, talk with family members back on Earth, go online, view itineraries and calendars, as well as get creative with drawing or design software.

Each room is equipped with a screen and allows each crew member to relax in their home away from home.

The screen size was determined by the average field of view from the opposite side of the room. The screen is specially calibrated to be optimized for close-up viewing.

Presenting to NASA

The design of the entire habitation module was presented to members of the Johnson Space Center Human Habitation Center in a gallery style presentation. The mockups of all decks were presented in order from top to bottom starting with the galley and working down to recreation.

Slide deck shown during presentation to accompany tour of the full-size mock-up.

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