TESSERAE: Self-Assembling Shell Structures for Space Exploration


Ariel Ekblaw

Ariel Ekblaw

Ekblaw, Ariel and Joseph Paradiso. "TESSERAE: self-assembling shell structures for space exploration." In Proceedings of the Annual Symposium of the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures: Extra Planetary Architecture, p. 317 (2018).


The future of human habitation in orbit lies in self-assembling, adaptive, additive and inflatable structures. Freed from the constraints of Earth gravity, we can explore innovative shell structures and redefine the very terms that have traditionally grounded architecture (floor, wall, ceiling, arch, et cetera). Space-based digital fabrication and autonomy in architectural assembly help us avoid gantries, mechanical assembly cranes, and the limitations of single-purpose modules. These new paradigms of construction facilitate crucial engineering benefits, from lowering launch payload weight, to reducing assembly complexity, to revolutionizing space-structure modularity. Our research proposes a multi-year effort to study, characterize, prototype, and deploy self-assembling space architecture or TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments). In this conceptual design paper, we describe the TESSERAE tile components and self-assembly shell design, we discuss at scale, in orbit deployment considerations, and we present preliminary test results from a proof of concept Zero Gravity flight.

Keywords: geodesic domes, self-assembly, stochastic assembly, space exploration habitat design, extra-planetary architecture

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