• MATHEMATICS of TENSEGRITY
"Tensegrity systems occupy the intersection of origami and prestressable structures" - Robert Skelton.
While finite element analysis enables engineering of conventional, rigid body structures, tensegrity structures are composed of many discrete rigid bodies, so arranged in space that the configuration can be stabilized by adding cable networks in tension connecting the rigid bodies. In some cases equilibrium is attained without the rigid bodies ever touching each other. New mathematics is required to engineer such structures, since their stability is dominated by the balance of forces in a flexible tensile cable network. This mathematics was created by Robert Skelton, ('Tensegrity Systems' - Springer, 2009).
• TENSEGRITY HABITATS -- SIGNIFICANCE FOR HUMAN ACCESS TO DEEP SPACE
The concept of growth capable rotating tensegrity torus pressure hulls has been proven feasible by our research, and shown to offer greatly improved mass efficiency. It is therefore only a matter of time before such structures are built and deployed. We expect these structures will lead to longer duration missions and to permanently occupied outposts in deep space. Shielding thickness will be progressively increased over time to support longer period crew rotation as these structures grow in size and are able to provide a full 1-g gravity effect. We expect that growth in size will be financed through the profitability of the business enterprises that are supported. A natural convergence of business interests will exist between mining operations and habitat development. Habitats may locate close to asteroidal bodies that have abundant water. It is likely that a mission to Mars will incorporate one or more orbital habitats supported by mining operations at Phobos and/or Deimos.
• TERRESTRIAL APPLICATIONS of TENSEGRITY
• Tensegrity systems also have a large number of potential terrestrial applications, ranging from architecture and civil engineering, to modeling of biological systems. Architects are investigating responsive architecture and use of tensegrity structures to make buildings adaptive to environmental changes. In civil engineering retractable roofs, domes and shelters make use of this concept. The structural similarity to biological systems has made tensegrity systems important with respect to modeling and simulation of cells, molecules and their interactions. Similarities with biological systems are also found with respect to number of actuators and degrees of freedom, a fact that has inspired tensegrity research into robotics.