In his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, American physicist, Gerard K. O’Neill proposed the colonization of space for the 21st century, using materials extracted from the Moon and later from asteroids. Through two rotating cylinders, O'Neill introduced the idea of creating habitable ecosystems between Earth and the Moon. Although the idea snowballed, factors such as high launch costs and low cadence prevented the project from taking off. More than 40 years later, two IIT Bombay-based engineers are working on a similar space city based on O'Neill's capsules.
Last year, Arindrajit Chowdhury and Tausif Shaikh launched Inspecity, a start-up with "...a simple dream of building a city up there in space, so that we don't fight over resources here on dear Earth." Nearly three weeks after the announcement of the Indian Space Policy, 2023, InspeCity raised $1.5 million in a pre-seed funding round led by deep tech investor Speciale Invest as part of its larger plans to develop a city in the low earth orbit (LEO) between the Earth and the Moon.
Even in current times a city in space seems at least too far-fetched if not highly ambitious and the engineers understand that. A rotating space station with 26 km in length and 6 and a half km in diameter would require much more than just 'human hands'. To begin with, Inspecity is developing an autonomous robotics platform for maintaining satellites, and eventually use them to make space factories and cities. The platform, called Vehicle for Life-Extension and Deorbiting Activities (VEDA), will have its own propulsion systems and will be retrofitted with a robotic arm (termed RAMA). Arindrajit and Tausif wish to become the greatest 'Space Mechanics' with their robotics platform that will not only repair satellites but also build the city with structures that are already in space.