Or: How to enjoy the view without getting sucked into space…

Ok, so you are in space and you want to look out of the window at the fantastic view and then along comes a small meteorite and hits the glass (or more likely the high impact laminated glass and polycarbonate) and makes a hole.

Scary!  Windows are great on spacecraft if you want to take in the views but they are also potential weak points.  You can build your normal walls many meters thick from layers of high strength material that can withstand impacts at huge energies but when it comes to making a transparent opening your choices get a little limited.

This little design below helps solve, or at least mitigate the problem by turning the window into a type of periscope.  When you look out of this window you are actually looking into a mirror, which reflects another mirror, which reflects the outside world.  By reflecting the light around two corners there is no longer any direct path for a projectile to travel down so although it can penetrate one set of windows and smash a mirror it will always end up hitting a protective wall.

Of course the downside is that you will appear to be looking out of a very deep window but with a bit of trickery a slight curve to the mirrors might provide the illusion that the window is only a few feet deep.

Of course I’ve added in a few extras like making the lower mirror double up as a pressure door. It would use a mechanical system to release a spring when the air pressure in its compartment drops, flipping the mirror unit up to close off the hole.  There is also a second shutter that can drop down as a last resort (or as a utility instead of curtains)

(A note to potential commenter’s: I’m not assuming that I’m the first person to think of this, I just haven’t come across the idea before.  If it has appeared in any sci-fi stories then I would be interested to know)

Safe windows for space stations

Safe windows for space stations

UPDATE:

Thinking about it a bit more … You would probably want a second drop down shutter on the outer window. The space behind this outer window where the first mirror is would be unpressurized so that anything penetrating the outer windows would not cause decompression – if it were pressurized then a failure would blow debris out into space so although an impact may well blast some debris out anyway this prevents to much ‘litter’ escaping at high velocities. When a break is detected the shutter can close and stop any bits floating out of the hole.

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2 Responses to “Space Windows”

  1. TJH Says:

    Would this work underwater? The scene that comes to mind is in one of the Jaws films and the shark breaks through the glass deep underwater…

    1. Bill Bigge Says:

      Yes!, good for dramatic effects with a twist! – you think they are about to die (and so do they) but then they don’t.

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