Glossary /

Approach For Students

SpaceSet Specific Terminology

  • SpaceSet (organisation)
    SpaceSet is the governing organisation for all regional Space Settlement Design Competitions globally. In partnership with these regional partners, SpaceSet own and produce all competition scenarios, provide judges to regional Finals, and support and assist where necessary.
    SpaceSet is also responsible for the organisation and hosting of the ISSDC, and ISSDC Finals, annually.
  • SpaceSet (general use term)
    SpaceSet is a portmanteau of Space Settlement – and broadly refers to all Space Settlement Design Competitions conducted globally.
  • International Space Settlement Design Competition (ISSDC)
    The global, umbrella SpaceSet competition, open to all students whom don’t study in an area with a Regional SpaceSet competition.

More information on participating directly in the ISSDC is available here (ISSDC > How To Participate>.

More information on Regional SpaceSet partners is available here (Global > Regional Events).

  • ISSDC Finals
    The global SpaceSet championships, conducted annually at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA. This is the premier event for all SpaceSet participants.

More information on the ISSDC Finals is available here (Global > ISSDC Finals>

  • The Foundation Society
    An intra-solar philanthropic entity that, in fifty years from now, is the body responsible for developing new space settlements and delivering humanity to the far reaches of space.

More information on the Foundation Society is available here (Support Material > The Foundation Society.

  • NorthDonning Heedwell
    An intra-solar aerospace engineering consortium. For all SpaceSet competitions, when students/participants form a team/company, they become NorthDonning Heedwell – adopting their corporate structure, and gaining eligibility to tender on Requests For Proposal’s (RFP’s) issued by the Foundation Society.
  • Company
    Teams of students in SpaceSet events are referred to as Companies, as this better reflects the professional nature of the role they’re assuming for the competition.

More information on the forming a Company is available here (Support Material > Your Company).

  • Participant
    Students involved in SpaceSet events are referred to as Participants, reflecting the fact that – for the purposes of the competition – they are aerospace executives.


Many of the words and terms used in Space Settlement Design Competitions materials are not part of familiar everyday usage. Here is a list of some of the various technical terms.

Air-breathing engine: a propulsion plant (motor) that acquires oxidizer from the air, rather than carrying it in tanks on the vehicle (as required by rocket engines).

Airlock: a chamber that enables people and things to move or be moved between volumes with different pressures; like a lock in a canal, the chamber starts at the pressure that the occupant is moving from, and changes to the pressure being moved to.

Attitude (of a vehicle): a vehicle’s orientation relative to Earth, Sun, or other objects; typically used to describe a desired view, observation target, or heating environment (e.g., a “sun-facing” attitude assures that one side of the vehicle will always be hot, and the other side always cool)

Avionics: literally, “aviation electronics”, mostly including commanding and monitoring of systems on aircraft and spacecraft

Cargo: the reason a vehicle flies; stuff that is carried by a vehicle from its starting point (ground or on-orbit) to the vehicle’s destination; can include satellites, bulk materials, construction components, or people

Cargo container: a standard carrier in which cargo is carried for a mission; ideally, all spacecraft cargo is containerized, because complex installations and interfaces can be accomplished to the inside of the container, and the standardized exterior interfaces of the container can be quickly mated to the inside of a cargo vehicle (standardized containers have been used for decades on ships, conventional aircraft, railroad cars, and trucks)

Consumables: stuff that is used up during the course of a mission or over a period of time, and hence must be replaced; includes everything from rocket fuel to pet food to pencils

Contract: a legal agreement between a customer and a company (contractor), whereby the contractor agrees build something or provide a service within a defined cost and schedule, and the customer agrees to pay the cost when the product is delivered (contracts may have provisions for partial payments over the course of a long product delivery schedule)

Dirtside: of or referring to Earth, people living there, and things on it

Down area: in a rotating space structure, the interior surfaces through which the acceleration due to the rotation (“artificial gravity”) appears to be vertical; conversely, surfaces inside a rotating space structure on which an individual could stand or things could be placed, as if they were on the ground

Downweight: amount of payload weight carried by a vehicle from orbit to the ground

Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV): a launch vehicle which is used for only one launch; typically, it sheds some of its components, or stages, during the launch process, with only a small portion of the original “stack” being delivered all the way to orbit

Extravehicular Activity (EVA): an excursion by a person in a spacesuit outside of any vehicle or habitat

Fabrication: manufacture; the process of making, building, and/or assembling

Fiber optics: use of tiny, transparent strands to transmit light that represents electronic signals; can replace traditional copper wire with less weight and expense, and greater reliability, but is not capable of transmitting power

GEO: Geosynchronous Earth Orbit; objects in 22,300 mile orbits rotate around the Earth at the same rate that the Earth turns on its axis; when located above the Equator, these objects appear to be stationary in Earth’s sky

Hypersonic flight: flight through an atmosphere at greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) for that atmosphere

Lagrangian points, or L1, L2, L3, L4, L5: see libration points

Launch vehicle: a spacecraft that is capable of launching or flying through an atmosphere (e.g., Earth’s) in order to get into space and achieve orbit

LEO: Low Earth Orbit; orbital locations above Earth’s atmosphere and below the Van Allen radiation belts

Libration points: in orbital mechanics, when one large body (e.g., the Moon) is in orbit around another large body (e.g., Earth), there are five points in orbits around the larger body where gravitational forces balance out to enable satellites to be placed where they could not stay if the smaller of the large bodies were not present (also called Lagrangian points, for Joseph Lagrange, the mathematician who developed the theory that predicts their existence)

Low-g: acceleration environment with less than the acceleration due to gravity on Earth’s surface

Mass driver: a device that electromagnetically accelerates small objects to very high velocities; can be utilized for efficiently launching material from airless surfaces

Micro-gravity (micro-g): an accurate description of “weightlessness”, the condition experienced in space when forces balance out and objects seem to “float”; true “zero-g” is theoretically not possible, because there are always some tiny forces operating on all objects

Nanotechnology: devices with dimensions between one-millionth and one-billionth of a meter

On-orbit: in space, in an orbit; usually refers to an orbit around Earth

Orbit: the path assumed by an object in space, due to balancing or “cancelling out” of accelerations due to gravity and rotation; usually the elliptical path of a small body (e.g., satellite) around a very large body (e.g., planet, moon, or star)

Outweight: amount of payload weight carried by a vehicle from Earth’s vicinity outbound to another location in the solar system

Overhead: the part of a budget that does not show up as part of the cost of work directly on a project, but is charged to the customer as part of the hourly charge for direct work (i.e., a contractor is paid for each hour an engineer works on tasks directly related to the project; the customer is billed a cost for the engineer’s hours that is greater than the salary paid to the engineer; the difference pays for computers, upkeep of the facility, janitors, utilities, secretaries, and other costs required to support the engineer’s work)

Payload: literally, “paying load”; cargo carried by a vehicle, for which a fee is being paid in exchange for moving the cargo to its destination

Payload capability: weight of payload(s) that a launch vehicle is capable of carrying to orbit

Payload integration: the process of safely stowing a payload (usually a satellite or complex device) on a launch vehicle and providing services (often including electrical power, avionics, and thermal control) that enable the payload to survive the flight and accomplish its purpose; includes design of payload services, analysis of payload’s ability to survive environments it will experience, and installation in the vehicle

Profit: the difference between the price charged by a contractor for providing a product, and the actual cost the contractor incurs to make the product

Proposal: a document prepared by a company or other entity, with the intention of convincing a customer that the company should be selected as the contractor that will provide a certain product; it describes the company’s recommendation for how it could provide the product, and explains why the customer should have confidence that the company has a superior design and can be relied upon to produce it according to the customer’s requirements and within the described cost and schedule

Rectenna: receiving antenna, for electrical power produced by and transmitted from Solar Power Satellites

Request for Proposal (RFP): a document prepared by a customer, which describes features of a product they want a contractor to produce

Requirements: features that a customer requests to be included in the design of a desired product

Returnweight: amount of payload weight carried by a vehicle to Earth’s vicinity inbound from another location in the solar system

Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV): technically, any launch vehicle that returns from its missions intact, and is designed to be maintained after flight and fly repeated missions

Satellite: any object in orbit around another object; usually refers to human-made devices in orbit around large natural bodies (i.e., planets, moons, stars)

Shirtsleeve: an environment inside a vehicle or habitat that enables humans to operate without protective clothing

Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO): the capability of a launch vehicle to accomplish a mission from the ground to orbit without staging, or shedding of components during the launch process; such vehicles contain all of the fuels and oxidizer they require in tanks inside their structures, and return to the ground with the tanks intact (the amount of oxidizer required can be reduced through use of air-breathing engines)

Solar panel: a device that converts sunlight into electrical power

Solar Power Satellite: a satellite, usually very large, consisting mostly of large arrays of solar panels producing electrical power that can be converted (usually to microwave energy) and transmitted to users in other locations

Solar sail: a surface, usually very large and lightweight, that makes use of pressure due to solar wind for propulsion

Spacer: of or referring to people who live in space

Spacesuit: a garment that provides pressure, breathing air, fluids and nutrients, waste removal, and protection against the space environment, and that enables a human to move and operate in the space environment

SPS: see “Solar Power Satellite”

SSTO: see “Single Stage to Orbit”

Station-keeping: use of small rockets, solar sails, or other propulsion to prevent satellites from drifting out of their desired orbital locations

Terminator: intersection between day and night on the surface of a planet or moon, which appears on the surface as sunrise or sunset

Upweight: amount of payload weight carried by a launch vehicle to orbit

Van Allen radiation belts: bands of radiation trapped in Earth’s magnetic field, which both absorb ambient deep-space radiation and provide protection for Earth’s surface, and are a hazard for satellites and humans operating within them

Zero-g: see “micro-gravity”


The Space Settlement Design Competition library includes more than 200 books, over half of which are brought by the co-founders to each International Finalist Competition.

Books in the library provide information on a wide variety of topics important to the design of human communities in space, including environments and resources in space, design of spacecraft and structures in space, hazards to humans, infrastructure requirements and aesthetic factors in design of communities for humans, and use of computers and robots.

Some of our favorites in the library are listed below; these are the books we consult most often when preparing Competition materials and answering participant questions. The Competition organizers know that your team can create a winning Qualifying Competition proposal without access to these books (indeed, some are out of print and are difficult to find). This list is provided to give you an indication of the written materials that are available, the types of information that can be useful to you in assembling your design, and topics that the judges feel are important.

Space Settlements – A Design Study. NASA SP-413, 1977 U.S. Government Printing Office

Space Resources and Space Settlements. NASA SP-428, 1979 U. S. Government Printing Office

Space Mission Analysis and Design. Larson / Wertz, 1992 Microcosm, Inc.

Introduction to Space – The Science of Spaceflight. Thomas D. Damon, 1989 Orbit Book Company / 1995 Krieger Publishing Company

Keys to Space – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Space Studies. Houston / Rycroft, 1999 McGraw-Hill

How Spacecraft Fly. Graham Swinerd, 2008 Praxis Publishing Ltd.

The Space Environment – Implications for Spacecraft Design. Alan C. Tribble, 2003 Princeton University Press

Entering Space – Creating a Spacefaring Civilization. Robert Zubrin, 1999 Tarcher / Putnam

Colonies in Space. T. A. Heppenheimer, 1977 Stackpole Books

The High Frontier (3rd Edition). Gerard K. O’Neill, 2000 Apogee Books

Space Enterprise. Philip Robert Harris, 2009 Springer – Praxis

Encyclopedia of the Solar System. Weissman / McFadden / Johnson, 1999 Academic Press

Introduction to the Space Environment (Second Edition). Thomas F. Tascione, 1994 Krieger Publishing Company

Astronomy Today (Third Edition). Chaisson / McMillan, 1999 Prentice Hall

The Lunar Base Handbook. Peter Eckart, 1999 McGraw-Hill

Lunar Outpost–The Challenges of Establishing a Human Settlement on the Moon. Erik Seedhouse, 2009 Springer-Praxis

The Moon – Resources, Future Development, and Colonization, 2nd Edition. Schrunk / Sharpe / Cooper / Thangavelu, 2008 Springer – Praxis

Lunar Sourcebook – a user’s guide to the moon. Heiken / Vaniman / French, 1991 Cambridge University Press

The Case for Mars. Robert Zubrin, 1996 The Free Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Strategies for Mars: A Guide to Human Exploration. Stoker / Emmart (Editors), 1996 American Astronautical Society

On to Mars – Colonizing a New World. Zubrin / Crossman, 2002 Apogee Books

Asteroids – Their Nature and Utilization (Second Edition). Charles T. Kowal, 1998 Wiley / Praxis

Mining the Sky – Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets. John S. Lewis, 1996 Addison-Wesley Publishing Company

Understanding Space – An Introduction to Astronautics. Jerry Jon Sellers, 2000 McGraw-Hill

Elements of Space Technology. Rudolf X. Meyer, 1999 Academic Press

Systems Engineering Principles and Practice. Kossiakoff / Sweet, 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spacecraft Systems Engineering. Peter Fortescue / John Stark, 1995 John Wiley and Sons

Elements of Spacecraft Design. Charles D. Brown, 2002 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Space Vehicle Design, Second Edition. Griffith/French, 2004 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Structures Technology for Future Aerospace Systems. Ahmed K. Noor (Editor), 2000 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Space Physiology and Medicine. NASA SP-447, 1982 U.S. Government Printing Office

Space Psychology and Psychiatry, 2nd Edition. Kanas / Manzey, 2008 Microcosm – Springer

Living and Working in Space (Second Edition). Philip R. Harris, 1996 Wiley / Praxis

Spaceflight Life Support and Biospherics. Peter Eckart, 1996 Microcosm Press / Kluwer Academic Publishers

Solar Power Satellites. Glaser/Davidson/Csigi, 1998 Wiley-Praxis

Visual Thinking for Architects and Designers. Kasprisin / Pettinari, 1995 Van Nostrand Reinhold

Engineering a New Architecture. Tony Robbin, 1996 Yale University Press

How Buildings Work – The Natural Order of Architecture. Edward Allen, 1995 Oxford University Press

The Next American Metropolis – Ecology, Community, and the American Dream. Peter Calthorpe, 1993 Princeton Architectural Press

Structures – The Way Things Are Built. Nigel Hawkes, 1990 / 1993 Macmillan Publishing Company

Materials and Design – The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design. Ashley/Johnson, 2002 Butterworth – Heinemann

Airport Engineering. Norman Ashford / Paul H. Wright, 1992 John Wiley and Sons

Infrastructure. Brian Hayes, 2005 W.W. Norton & Company

Transportation Engineering (PE Exam Depth Guide). James T. Ball, 2001 McGraw-Hill

Introduction to Communications Technologies: A Guide for Non-Engineers. Jones / Kovac, 2003 CRC Press

Communications Systems & Networks. Ray Horak, 1997 M & T Books

Telecommunications Essentials. Lillian Goleniewski, 2002 Addison-Wesley

Satellite Communications Systems (Second Edition). M. Richharia, 1999 McGraw – Hill

Water Treatment and Waste Recovery – Advanced Technology and Applications. Nicholas P. Cheremisinoff / Paul N. Cheremisinoff, 1993 P T R Prentice Hall

Handbook of Water Use and Conservation. Amy Vickers, 2001 Water Plow Press

Composting and Recycling Municpal Solid Waste. Diaz / Savage / Eggerth / Golueke, 1993 Lewis Publishers

Lunar Base Agriculture: Soils for Plant Growth. D. W. Ming / D. L. Henninger, 1989 American Society of Agronomy

Horticulture – Principles and Practices. George Acquaah, 1999 Prentice Hall

Agroecology – The Science of Sustainable Agriculture (Second Edition). Miguel A. Altieri, 1995 Westview Press

Organic Farming–Everything You Need to Know. Peter V. Fossel, 2007 Voyageur Press

Livestock Feeds & Feeding (Third Edition). D. C. Church, 1991 Prentice Hall

The Origins and Technology of the Advanced Extravehicular Space Suit. Gary L. Harris, 2001 American Astronautical Society

Nutrition for Dummies. Carol Ann Rinzler, 1999 Hungry Minds, Inc.

Architectural Representation Handbook. Paul Laseau, 2000 McGraw-Hill

The Timeless Way of Building. Christopher Alexander, 1979 Oxford University Press

A Pattern Language. Alexander/Ishikawa/Silverstein, 1977 Oxford University Press

Designing Places for People. C. M. Deasy / Thomas E. Lasswell, 1985 Whitney Library of Design

The Not So Big House. Sarah Susanka, 1998 The Taunton Press

Inside the Not So Big House. Sarah Susanka / Marc Vassallo, 2005 The Taunton Press

Smart Homes for Dummies. Brieve / Hunley, 1999 IDG Books Worldwide

How Computers Work. Ron White, 1997 Ziff-Davis Press

Computers in the Human Context. Tom Forester, 1989 MIT Press

Humans and Automation: System Design and Research Issues. Thomas B. Sheridan, 2002 John Wiley & Sons

The Essential Guide to Telecommunications, Third Edition. Annabel Z. Dodd, 2002 Prentice Hall

Network Analysis, Architecture, and Design. James D. McCabe, 2003 Morgan Kauffmann Publishers

Anatomy of a Robot. Charles M. Bergen, 2003 McGraw-Hill

Industrial Robotics: Selection, Design, and Maintenance. Harry Colestock, 2005 McGraw-Hill

Robots in Space. Launius / McCurdy, 2008 The Johns Hopkins University Press Press

Nanotechnology – A Gentle Introduction to the Next Big Idea. Ratner / Ratner, 2003 Prentiss Hall

Nanotechnology Demystified. Williams / Adams, 2007 McGraw-Hill

Nanofuture: What’s Next for Nanotechnology. J. Storrs Hall, PhD, 2005 Prometheus Books

Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers. (various editors and editions), McGraw-Hill

Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook. Perry/Green/Maloney, 1984 McGraw-Hill

Materials Handbook (Eleventh Edition). Brady / Clauser, 1977 McGraw-Hill

Project Management. Harold Kerzner, 2003 John Wiley & Sons

System Engineering Management. Benjamin S. Blanchard, 2004 John Wiley & Sons

Field Engineer’s Manual, 3rd Edition. Robert O. Parmley, 2002 McGraw-Hill

AIAA Aerospace Design Engineers Guide, Fifth Edition. ADEG Subcommittee, 2003 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


The Competition organizers also bring copies of pertinent articles from periodical publications to the Finalist Competition and regional Competitions, for use by the participants. The following are some of our favorite sources of supplemental materials:

Aerospace America American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA 20191-4344

Ad Astra National Space Society, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 201, Washington, D.C. 20003-4316

The Futurist World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814


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