Space Architecture: Designing an Orbital Habitation System: Challenges and Consequences Online



  • This unique course is at the leading edge of system-design-integration for weightless human missions.
  • Instructed by leading experts from the AIAA Space Architecture Technical Committee
  • All students will receive an AIAA Certificate of Completion at the end of the course.


This course covers the development strategies and design challenges of locating and building orbital habitats. Space Architects present material on how the transportation system, mission planning, and environmental factors influence the architecture of the orbital habitats in shape, size, and growth.

The course offers methods of integrating, maintaining, and upgrading habitat subsystems, with particular focus on the Environmental Control Life Support system, Crew Systems, and Health Maintenance systems. The instructors present studies and design concepts for accommodating human factors in micro gravity, including for non-professionals (tourists), and discuss logistics for resupply and crew rotation to sustain habitat operations.


  • Gain an in-depth understanding of relevant aspects of an orbital habitation system.
  • Discover space architecture design strategies that integrate transdisciplinary aerospace methodologies.
  • Translate space architecture fundamental design drivers into system engineering practices.

This course is for decision makers, program managers, chief engineers, and architects working on space missions involving humans or are interested in that field.

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Fundamentals - Intermediate
Course Length: 1-2 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes

This course is also available on-demand. Register here.



Lecture 1: Environmental Issues, Design Challenges, and Implications (Georgi Petrov (SOM), Brand Griffin)

  • Introduction to main themes
  • Issues that need to be addressed by a space architect

Lecture 2: Historical Precedents and Planning for an Orbital Station (David Nixon, Jeff Hoffman)

  • Development History of ISS, covering the period from around 1979 early ideas up to 2011 completion in orbit
  • Designing orbital habitats to reflect the needs of diverse users

Lecture 3: Planning and Building an Orbital Space Station (Olga Bannova, Azhar Khan)

  • Modular Approaches to Planning an Orbital Station - Lessons Learned
  • Urban Planning for Orbit
Lecture 4: Integrating Habitability – Humans and Environment Interaction (Sandra Haeuplik-Meusburger, Sheryl Bishop)

  • Introduction to habitability principles and discussion of major habitability issues for orbital habitation facilities. Key Issues, Countermeasures, Environment interaction
  • Examples and Lessons Learned from previous analogue and space missions, including Salyut, Mir, Skylab and the ISS

Lecture 5: Architectural Concepts for Future Orbital Stations (Suzi Bianco, Ted Hall)

  • Axiom Station and the Challenges of Commercial Space Stations
  • Artificial Gravity: Introduction to the theory and practice of designing effective, safe, and reasonably comfortable rotating habitats

Lecture 6: Q&A and Discussion (All Instructors)


Dr. Olga Bannova is a Research Professor, Cullen College of Engineering, University of Houston. She is also the past chair of SATC (2020-2022) and Director, Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and its Master of Science in Space Architecture program educating students for 15 years. She is the author of the book Human habitats beyond the planet Earthled the IAA position paper The role of space architectureand co-author with Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger of the Space Architecture Education for Engineers and Architectswhere they explain space architecture design strategy and major aspects of planning and designing to enable human space explorationShe is a corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and a secretary of the ASCE Aerospace Division Executive Committee. Research studies and grants include: DSG Habitability, Lunar Base, Deployable Airlock Studies, and lunar surface architectures (Boeing), 2 NASA’s Minimum Functionality Habitation Element studies (Boeing and ILC Dover), Space Hab’s Lunar Exploration System, Commercial Launch Facility in West Texas (TAC), Houston Spaceport (HAS).

Suzi Bianco is a practicing space architect at Axiom Space, where she is the Responsible Engineer for the Corridor , the common living area of the Axiom Hab 1. In 2010 she graduated in architecture and urban design in Brazil and worked for 8 years in the infrastructure and industrial field, designing human-rated spaces that range from factory facilities, power plants and offshore laboratories, to subway stations, offsite work villages and corporate offices. In 2016 she took a leap of faith and moved to Houston to pursue a degree in Space Architecture and has been involved in the Space Industry ever since, participating in several student competitions,  NASA 3d Printing challenge, and spoke at a few space exploration conferences. Around 2018 Suzi joined the startup Space Cooperative, where she worked as the operations officer and community lead, and co-founded the platform Space Decentral, which was an attempt to democratize access to space research/development by bringing people together from around the globe to work on space missions. She joined Axiom in 2021 as an architect to develop Axiom’s new AI&T facility and in 2022 transferred to the Crew Systems department to work on her true passion – design for humans in space. She spent some time with the Human Factors team where she learned a lot though direct interaction with Axiom Astronauts and lead HF professionals, and eventually made her way to the Corridor team. As the Corridor Responsible Engineer, Suzi leads a small team of designers and engineers in creating a habitable space that caters to the different use cases of Axiom Customers, while meeting all of the integration, safety and subsystem requirements that would be expected of a spacecraft in low earth orbit.

Dr. Sheryl L. Bishop is a social psychologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Nursing and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (1992-2016). She has also served as faculty since 1996 for the International Space University, Strasbourg, France. As an internationally recognized behavioral researcher in extreme environments, for the last 30 years Dr. Bishop has investigated human performance and group dynamics in teams in extreme, unusual environments, involving deep cavers, mountain climbers, desert survival groups, polar expeditioners, Antarctic winter-over groups and various simulations of isolated, confined environments for space, including a number of missions at remote habitats (e.g., Mars Desert Research Station, Utah, HiSEAS in Hawaii and the FMARS and Mars Project on Devon Island, Canada). She has been a grant reviewer for the European Space Agency’s Concordia Station, the Canadian Space Agency’s Life Science Directorate, the Australian Antarctic Science Division, and the Czech Science Foundation. She has over 60 publications (including contribution to NASA’s Historical Series on Psychology in Space) and over 50 scholarly presentations in both the medical and psychological fields. She is frequently sought out as a content expert by various media and has participated in multiple television documentaries on space and extreme environments by Discovery Channel, BBC and 60 Minutes. Her most recent book, Space Habitats and Habitability: Designing for Isolated and Confined Environments on Earth and Space, with space architect Dr. Sandra Haeuplik-Meusburger, was released June 2021.

Mr. Brand Griffin
 is the Program Manager for a Single-Person Spacecraft at Genesis Engineering Solutions. Before joining Genesis, he supported NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Spaceflight Center where he participated in the analysis and design of lunar bases and deep space habitats. Formerly, he worked with Boeing as the lead configurator for Space Station Freedom and Habitation Module Manager. Among his innovative designs are an open-cockpit lunar hopper, wheeled-landing pressurized rover, a horizontal lunar lander, and the Skylab II deep space habitat. His next generation space suit was on display for 10 years at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Mr. Griffin has authored over 35 technical publications and numerous articles in books and periodicals. He was co-chair of the System Architecture and Mission Design Department at International Space University and was on the faculties of Tulane University, Rice University, and the University of Washington.

Dr. Theodore W. Hall is a senior software developer for virtual and augmented reality at the University of Michigan. He holds professional and doctoral degrees in architecture, but his career path changed as an M.Arch. student when he joined the U-M Architecture and Planning Research Laboratory to develop software for computer aided architectural design. His unpaid avocation is space architecture, with a specialization in artificial gravity. He completed his doctoral dissertation in 1994 on “The Architecture of Artificial-Gravity Environments for Long-Duration Space Habitation.” He continues to publish on that topic, and occasionally advises industry professionals as well as science fiction authors. He is a senior member of the AIAA, was a founding member of the AIAA Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC) from its earliest inception as a working group in another TC, and chaired the SATC from 2010 to 2014.

Dr. Ing. Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger is a practicing architect and researcher specializing Habitation in Isolated Confined Environments (ICE) and Space Architecture. She is affiliated at the Institute for Design and Building Construction, HB2 at TU Wien, where she teaches space architecture and construction courses. Addtionally, she holds the position of Academic Director for the EMBA in Space Architecture at TU Wien, and serves as the Academic Director fort he Space Course at the Science Academy in Lower Austria.

Dr. Häuplik-Meusburger is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the current chair of the AIAA Space Architecture Technical Committee. She is the author of Architecture for Astronauts – An Activity-based ApproachSpace Architecture Education for Engineers and Architects (with Olga Bannova), and Space Habitats and Habitability (with Sheryl Bishop).

Overall, Dr. Häuplik-Meusburger's work encompasses both practical and research-based contributions to the field of space architecture, focusing on habitation in isolated confined environments and providing valuable education in the subject.

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman is a professor in MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. He received a BA in Astronomy (summa cum laude) from Amherst College (1966); a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard University (1971); and an MSc in Materials Science from Rice University (1988). As a NASA astronaut (1978-1997) he made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle. Dr. Hoffman was Payload Commander of STS-46, the first flight of the US-Italian Tethered Satellite System. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history (STS 51D; April, 1985) and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope (STS 61; December, 1993). As the Astronaut Office representative for EVA, he helped develop and carry out tests of advanced high-pressure space suit designs and of new tools and procedures needed for the assembly of the International Space Station. Following his astronaut career, Dr. Hoffman spent four years as NASA’s European Representative, working at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.  In August 2001, Dr. Hoffman joined the MIT faculty, where he teaches courses on space operations and space systems design. His primary research interests are in improving the technology of space suits and designing innovative space systems for human and robotic space exploration. Dr. Hoffman is director of the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, responsible for space-related educational activities. He is Deputy Principal Investigator of the MOXIE experiment on NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission, which for the first time has produced oxygen from extraterrestrial material, a critical step in the future of human space exploration. In 2007, Dr. Hoffman was elected to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Azhar Khan is a practicing Space Architect for Blue Origin on Orbital Reef where he focuses on the architectural design of the Core module – the central axial element of Orbital Reef which serves as the ‘public square’ for the station. After graduating with his Master of Architecture degree, Azhar moved to Paris where for five years he assisted renowned design firms such as Atelier Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid Architects, Studio Gang, Architectonica, NBBJ, and more as a computational designer and consultant. His projects span North America, Europe, Africa, and East Asia. For the past four years Azhar has taught architecture and product design at the University of Colorado Boulder where he also formulated the Space Architecture course and conducted research on space habitation. He has also taught graduate level students at the University of Florida and Ecole des Ponts in Paris. Azhar has a dual background in aerospace engineering and architecture with degrees from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Florida.

Dr. David Nixon is an independent consultant in the space field. He began his career as an architect in the UK and from 1970 to 1980 worked at the London offices of Sir Hugh Casson, Lord Norman Foster, Lord Richard Rogers and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw. In 1978 he founded the avant-garde studio of Future Systems with Jan Kaplicky with whom he collaborated for a decade on exploratory and competition projects. In 1980 he moved to California and taught architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona. At SCI-Arc from 1985 he directed graduate research for NASA on full-scale studies of crew quarters for the recently-announced Space Station. This led to his growing involvement in space through his own office in Los Angeles from 1992. Over the years he has worked on projects for NASA, ESA, JPL, British Aerospace, Alenia Spazio, McDonnell Douglas, Spacehab, Kistler Aerospace Corporation and Rotary Rocket Company. He has authored thirty papers and reports and the book 'International Space Station – Architecture Beyond Earth'. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society, an AIAA Senior Member and a Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Georgi Petrov is a practicing architect, structural engineer and space architect. He is a Senior Associate Principal in the structures group at the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he works on highrises and long span structures around the world.  He is the leader of SOM’s space architecture endeavors, with work exhibited at the 21st Architecture Biennale in Venice and the 23rd Triennale Milano International Exhibition.  A founding Partner of Synthesis International, he has nearly two decades of experience in the field of space architecture and design for extreme environments.  He is an adjunct professor at New York University and a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he teaches Design of Tall Buildings. He was the engineer of crew 22 of the Mars Desert Research Station.  Georgi is vice-chair of the AIAA’s Space Architecture Technical Committee and will be the chair of the committee for a term 2024-2026.  He holds a M.S. in structural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a M.Arch from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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