Our goal for this team is to encourage students from UBC and worldwide to gain experience in the field of space exploration.  To do this, we have created a competition in order to get other universities involved.  There is a growing amount of interest in the exploration of space, yet very few companies are actually pushing towards making colonization possible. Students do not always have an opportunity to gain hands-on during their years in education, so we hope that this team will give students a chance to further their professional development.

Airlock Inauguration

Our first project is to design, prototype, and manufacture a functional and collapsible airlock by September 2018. Currently, we are in the year two phase of our project, and look well on track to complete our goal by September. We do not plan on stopping there, however, our sights are set on much loftier goals. With this project we have inspired other universities to join us, in our very own Mars Colony competition, more information regarding the competition can be found further below.

Current Airlock

Current unfinished model of our collapsible airlock

First Year

Conceptualization, design, and initial testing

We will be researching the effects of the Martian planet: atmosphere, current airlock designs, and space programs during the Fall, 2016. This will provide us time to organize ourselves before we tackle the design stage, and figure out the necessary components to able to begin testing. Next, we are going to come up with a design for how the airlock is going to function, putting all the pieces together. To validate our design, we are going to prototype the different systems using physical and analytical models and constantly improve on them.

Tests to perform:

  • Pressure testing different materials, such as a frame cover, to see if it can withstand the 102.7 kPa difference in pressure on its own, or with a cage
  • Pressure testing main structure’s seals
  • Puncturing fabric to understand the failure modes so that we can look into solutions in the event of a catastrophic failure
  • Controlling pumps and motors both autonomously and with user input.
  • Validating door mechanisms

Second Year

Prototyping, manufacturing, and iteration

With a detailed design created from what we learned in the first year, we will start testing and putting together the larger mechanisms that will be a part of the airlock. Electrically, we will be creating the circuits to control the system. Structurally, the design is going to be verified through physical and analytical prototypes. During this time, we will find suppliers and manufacture the components and order whatever is necessary. Meanwhile, the team will implement cost/mass saving methods to create a better solution. Once this is completed, we will iterate through the design and improve it until it is time to build. Finally, our team will assemble the airlock in a mock capsule, reassemble it like we would on Mars, troubleshoot any problems that arise, and show the world our design.

To measure our success, we will test in conditions similar to the Martian environment. The plan is to pressurize the inside of our airlock to represent the pressure difference between Mars and habitable air pressure. Our expectation is to build a working model of at least 75% full scale by the end of September 2018.

Project Airlock Challenge

Humanity is on the cusp of a major landmark in history. With many major national and private organizations actively working to send humans to Mars, humanity may soon become an interplanetary species. Elon Musk of SpaceX and NASA as well plan to have humans on Mars by 2025 and the 2030’s respectively; the Chinese Space Agency is projecting crewed missions by 2040. While the engineering challenge of how to actually get to Mars is technically beyond the level of most undergraduates and is usually exercised with national level backing, the challenge of designing parts of habitats and facilities for Mars is not. This competition is devoted to inspiring interest in space travel and Mars colonization, as well as offering a platform to cultivate the engineering talent and skill sets needed by the burgeoning space industry for ambitious projects. We hope this competition will cater to a wide range of STEM disciplines and in particular to those who are interested in a career in aerospace engineering or planetary sciences.

Visit the Official Competition Website for more information on how to get started in Project Airlock.

Potential Projects

There are a lot of different areas to explore regarding the colonization of Mars, some being more feasible than others. Hopefully in the future, we can begin combining some of projects listed below as the team grows and matures. We feel that, upon completion, these projects listed will reflect a more complete Martian colony-the ultimate end goal of the UBC Mars Colony team:

  • Biospheres
  • Air Recycling Systems
  • Water Reclamation Systems
  • Communications Systems
  • Oxygen production
  • Proof of concept ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) systems for obtaining resources
  • Hydroponics
  • Agricultural tests on simulated soils
  • Rovers for human transport or control

Team Roles

Team roles and responsibilities can be found here.

Multidisciplinary Goals:

Our team isn’t limited to Engineering students! The UBC Mars Colony team would benefit by including people of related specialties, broadening the realms of what is possible and creating a more rounded, realistic basis for our Martian colony. Soon, we will be in the process of putting together a research division to look into related colony projects. Some fields that could have related projects include:

  • Architecture – Designing models and mock-ups of possible designs of the colony
  • Psychology – Understanding the impact on a person’s mental state by living in an enclosed space
  • Sociology – Understanding interactions between people in this limited environment
  • Land and Food Systems – Agriculture of crops on Mars
  • Biology – Researching the optimal organisms to convert CO2 emissions to oxygen for human survival.
  • Chemistry – Researching reactions like the Sabatier reaction to produce methane and oxygen for the colony, and helping with oxygen conversion
  • Geology – Understanding and modelling the compositions on Mars