Erebus the space city

The colonization of space is a necessary step for the evolution of human civilization, it will also be a guarantee of survival for the species. The current consumption of resources is unsustainable in the medium term for our society. The Erebus space city project addresses the possibility of establishing a permanent mining colony on Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The project was presented in the international competition Leap, being awarded an honorable mention from the contest editors.

Erebus cover panel


Ceres's location is ideal for a mining colony, allowing the belt's resources to be exploited and shipped as raw materials to Earth. The establishment of a permanent colony on Ceres would in turn allow the exploration and future exploitation of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Ceres is in an elliptical orbit inclined 10.6 ° with respect to the plane of the ecliptic, where the Earth's orbit is located. The dwarf planet is located at a distance from Earth between 1.5 and 3.8 astronomical units (AU). Being 1 AU the distance from the sun to Earth, that is 149,597,870 km. Although the minimum distance is 1.5 AU estimated in 2032, the route to Ceres cannot be made in a straight line.

Ceres synchronous orbit calculation
Ceres synchronous orbit calculation

Keep in mind that both the Earth and Ceres move in elliptical orbits, so to compensate for the orbital speed and the trajectory, the path must follow a tangent arc between the ellipses of the orbits. Therefore the route will travel approximately between 4.5 AU and 6 AU depending on the position of the Earth and Ceres. The location of Erebus the space city has been chosen, taking into account the relative proximity and abundance of resources in the environment.

Erebus space city

Ceres mining is conceived as a first step towards the establishment of a permanent orbital settlement. The chosen name, Erebus the space city, is due to the fact that the view of the sun from Ceres is much dimmer than from Earth. That is why Erebus is chosen as the name of the mission, in honor of the Greek god of darkness.

Main image Erebus the space city
Main image Erebus the space city

The Erebus mining colony on Ceres is divided into the surface facilities and the orbital station.

Surface mining establishment

 A robotic mining settlement will be established on the surface of the dwarf planet that will send material to the orbital station. The human settlement will be located in orbit due to the lack of gravity in Ceres, 0.27 m / s² in addition to the absence of a magnetic field that protects from radiation. The settlement on the surface will be located around a large shaft with an installed gauss cannon that will launch the cargo containers towards the orbiting station. The shortage of gravity will allow mining and smelting work with a low energy cost.

At Ceres, raw materials will be mined and refined to be shipped in ingots to the station. Most of the facilities will be underground, occupying the excavation tunnels with the mineral processing machinery. Mainly ice will be mined, abundant under the surface in a thick layer. Deuterium and tritium, used in nuclear fusion reactors, are subsequently released from the ice. Power for the base on Ceres will be sourced from solar panels and nuclear reactors.

Hades Mining Station on Ceres
Hades Mining Station on Ceres

The space city

The orbital station will be in itself a space city. It will house human settlement and industrial facilities that need gravity. The station will be formed by the union of three toroidal ships of 224 m radius, the rotation will allow a gravity equal to that of the Earth in the habitable zone. The toroidal ships will be independent and will be linked by the axis, allowing the evacuation in case of catastrophe from the affected station to the other two. The axis of the orbital station will measure 600 meters and will house a gauss cannon, which will send or brake containers from the base on Ceres. The cannon will in turn launch cargo containers with the least valuable resources into Earth's orbit from where they can be recovered. Each toroidal ship will have a rotating ring with 1g gravity living space.

Description of the Erebus station
Description of the Erebus station

Toroidal ships

For the Erebus mission, six toroidal ships will be built in an orbital shipyard on Earth. The names of each ship will refer to the great illustrated expeditions of the late 18th century.

Elevation Erebus the space city
Elevation Erebus the space city

The first ship will be called Bouganville, in honor of Louis Antoine de Bougainville and the first French circumnavigation expedition that he commanded between 1766-1769.

The second ship will be named Cook, in honor of James Cook and his first circumnavigation expedition with the aim of observing the transit of Venus in Tahiti, 1768-1771

The third ship will be called Mutis, in honor of José Celestino Mutis and the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada that he led, 1783-1817

The fourth ship will be called Malaspina, in honor of Alessandro Malaspina and the expedition he commanded with the objective of seeking the Northwest Passage, 1789-1794

The fifth ship will be named Vancouver, in honor of George Vancouver and the American Northwest Exploration Expedition, 1791-1795.

The sixth ship will be called Humboldt, in honor of Alexander Von Humboldt and his voyage of exploration through Spanish America, 1799-1804

Mission relays

Three spacecraft will be placed in the synchronous orbit of Ceres, forming the Erebus orbital station 696.62 km from the surface. And the other three at different points on the route to or from Earth. This will allow a relay to the station every 6 months, allowing the return of personnel and valuable cargo to Earth. When a toroidal ship arrives at the orbital station it will dock to the axis and the ship on the opposite side of the station will be undocked, with the personnel that must return to Earth and the cargo of more value.

Erebus mission security
Mission security

Modular operation

Thanks to this, the safety of the mission will be ensured by being able to totally fail one of the ships, in addition to the maintenance and modernization of the station, it will be possible to do it in the orbit of the earth. Allowing to improve the settlement as needs arise. The possibility of returning to Earth every few months will avoid psychological problems derived from isolation by allowing the rotation of personnel on contracts of a few years. The size of the orbital station will allow the accommodation of workers and their families in a pleasant environment with the leisure and services of a small city.


Each toroidal ship will occupy a volume of 2,877,965 m³, with a useful surface of 70,400 m², for which it has been estimated that it will weigh 2,014,575.5 tons. Given the large amount of energy required to move such a mass, nuclear propulsion will be chosen. Four modules of the habitable ring will be nuclear reactors. The reactor rooms will have a fusion reactor and a fission reactor. Fission reactors will produce energy and fissile isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium, and tritium. These isotopes will be initially accelerated in the fusion reactors and later in particle accelerators until they are made to collide in the impulsion nozzles of the toroidal ship. These nuclear explosions caused by the fusion of hydrogen will produce immense amounts of energy with minimal waste of matter, being used to move the station.

Propulsion and power of the ships Erebus Station
Propulsion and power of the ships Erebus Station

The fission reactors will use enriched uranium as a fuel and heavy water as a neutron moderator, producing the tritium needed to drive the spacecraft. The heat from the reactors after passing through the turbines will be used to heat the building. And the electrical power will keep the particle accelerators and the rest of the ship's systems running. On the other hand, fuel used to manufacture nuclear cells for communication satellites can be used.

Upon establishment of the mining colony, uranium will be mined and enriched, and deuterium and tritium will be extracted from the ice for storage as fuel for mission relays.

Public transport

The habitable ring of each toroidal ship will have 24 modules that will communicate through a metro network. The ring will be divided into four sectors separated by the reactor modules. Each sector of 5 modules will be dedicated to one use, the first for accommodation, the second for leisure and public services, the third for food production and the fourth for offices and warehouses. The ring will have 4 heights and will have a space port for the landing of small ships, usable in case of emergency. The harbor will be a landing deck with electromagnetic rails that will provide the angular momentum of the ring to the approaching ship.

Ship train
Ship train

The axis of each toroidal ship will have industrial facilities that do not need gravity, storage of valuable resources and a sector of the gauss cannon for the station.

The habitable ring:

Erebus the space city will be made up of three rotating habitable rings. Each ring will be divided into sectors according to the use of space.

top view Erebus
top view Erebus

Housing sector

The housing sector will occupy 5 modules of the ring. It will be distributed in a landscaped avenue with 135 minimum room units of 43m². It will be organized in 4 levels providing 15,200m² of useful space. In total, the housing sector will house 270 workers and their families. The lower level of the sector will house the facilities to purify the sector's water and air.

Erebus residential sector
Erebus residential sector

Each room unit will accommodate a minimum of 2 adults, two being able to join to accommodate families with more than two children. The room units will have a bathroom and a small kitchen, with community facilities in the leisure sector.

Space room unit
Space room unit

Agricultural sector

The agricultural sector will occupy 5 modules of the ring. It will be dedicated to food production, air purification and production of polymers and oils for industrial uses. It will be organized on 4 levels providing 20,000m² of usable space. Fish farms will be installed on the lower level to provide fresh fish and complement hydroponic farms on the three upper floors. Bioreactors will also be installed for the cultivation of algae and single-celled fungi. 

Agricultural sector Erebus
Agricultural sector Erebus

The fish will fertilize the water and the plants, algae and fungi will oxygenate and absorb the nutrients. Hydroponic crops will receive light through led panels organized by levels in cereal cultivation, vegetable cultivation and fruit tree cultivation. The crops will be sectorized to provide the ideal climatic conditions. The biomass resulting from the harvests will be used to grow mushrooms and produce fertilizers that supplement the fish detritus.

Utility sector

The public services sector will occupy 5 modules of the ring. Dedicated to providing services for the orbital spacecraft community. It will be distributed in a landscaped avenue, distributed in 4 levels providing 15200m² of useful space. Organized in 4 levels using the lower one to house the facilities to purify the water and air in the sector.

Erebus services sector
Erebus services sector

The uses will be organized by modules, that is: first hospital module, second school module, third sports facilities module, fourth commercial area module and fifth cultural activities module.

Laboral sector:

The labor sector will occupy 5 modules of the ring. It will be dedicated to housing the offices and facilities to remotely control the Ceres surface mine and other work activities. It will be organized on 4 levels providing 20,000m² of usable space.

Erebus labor sector
Erebus labor sector

The uses will be organized by modules, that is: first command bridge module, second mine control module, third scientific facilities module, fourth factory module and fifth storage module.

Mission staff:

For the operation of the mission, the existence of 105 astro miners per work shift is proposed that will control the mine on the surface of Ceres from the Erebus orbital station. To do this, a staffing is established for the entire station (the three toroidal ships) of 810 people who will work distributed in 3 shifts of 8 hours.

Personnel by toroidal ship

WorkersNo.Members per shiftWork shifts
Reactor No. 1 Operators1243
Reactor No. 2 Operators1243
Reactor No. 3 Operators1243
Reactor No. 4 Operators1243
Flight crew1553
Security personnel30103
Service staff30103
Health personnel1553
Agricultural personnel93 
Metro driver313

Erebus station total staff

WorkersNo.Members per shiftWork shifts
Reactor operators144483
Flight crew45153
Security personnel90303
Service staff90303
Health personnel45153
Agricultural personnel2793
Metro driver933

Communication with the Earth

To establish telecommunications with the mine on the surface, a network of satellites will be deployed in synchronous orbits with Ceres that surround the asteroid. This will allow to establish communication from any point of the satellite, and to be able to locate routes by means of GPS.

For communication with the Earth, the three ships that are en route will be used to relieve toroidal ships of the station as signal repeaters. Thus, the signals can be amplified, requiring transmitters of lower power than if the communication were direct. In any case, there would be a communication latency with the Earth of between 12 and 30 minutes approximately depending on the distance from Ceres to Earth.

The spatial economy:

The Erebus station will send self-propelled cargo containers to earth through its Gauss cannon in the direction of Earth orbit to be recovered. This system will be used to send ice and already refined materials, such as iron, nickel, copper, titanium, lithium, sulfur, etc.

While the most valuable materials will be stored on the axis of the toroidal ship to be relieved from the station. In other words, refined materials will be sent back to Earth with the ship, such as: platinum, iridium, tritium, uranium, gold, palladium, osmium, tantalum, etc.

The route of the stars
The route of the stars

A trade will be established between the station and Earth, as there will be relays every 6 months from the Erebus station. On the way from Earth, the toroidal ships will send non-manufacturable industrial products at the station and consumer goods, in addition to the passengers. While on the way back, the toroidal ships will transport the most commercially valuable mined elements and the personnel who finish their contracts. 

Mission security.

Establishing the Erebus station as the union of three self-sufficient ships allows in the event of a catastrophe the evacuation of the affected toriodal ship and its accommodation in the other two ships of the station. On the other hand, by considering six thoriodal ships, the station receives supplies every half year with help always on the way. Being able to return to Earth every 6 months also avoids isolation and the feeling of insecurity of the station's inhabitants.

The space society

Erebus the space city is the first step towards sending more stations to Ceres and establishing a self-sustaining orbital colony. With the ability to manufacture their own ships and stations to send their own colonization missions. At this point a society will form that considers Ceres and the asteroid belt as its home. The community of Beltway will live in toroidal stations interconnected by trains. Allowing orbital settlements to grow to form large space cities. In this sense, given the abundance of resources, the growth of the colony on Ceres would be limited only by human population growth. Once established on Ceres the possibility of human expansion would be guaranteed for centuries.

After Ceres, the main asteroids of the belt will be colonized: Vesta, Palas, Higia, Juno, etc. Establishing first mining settlements, then colonies and finally orbital shipyards that build their own ships and stations. The human community in the asteroid belt will subsequently allow it to expand towards Jupiter's moons and the asteroids in their orbit.

Erebus the space city. Award winning project

basil walls

The Erebus project received the honorific mention from the contest editors.

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