According to my dictionary, a superstructure is that part of a structure which is built on something else, or an over-lying framework. But the superstructures described in Michael Gorn’s Superstructures in Space are, well, not even really structures. They are satellites, robot explorers, space station modules and spacecraft.
This large coffee-table book is split into four sections: Human Spaceflight, Earth Observation, Exploring the Solar System, and Exploring the Universe. In those four sections are fifty-seven spacecraft, from Soyuz to the Hubble Space Telescope. There are, according to the book’s introduction, about 8,000 objects in orbit about the Earth at any one point in time. So Gorn has chosen to focus on civil space programmes, reflecting a “wide variety of countries, many sizes and shapes, a wealth of technologies, and numerous objectives”.
Superstructures in Space is informative and contains many excellent photographs. For some spacecraft, there are computer-generated artist’s impressions instead. The book is especially strong on those satellites which study the Earth, and gives a good indication of their technologies and aims. Other sections, covering the International Space Station, Soyuz and the Space Shuttle, are less detailed.
Superstructures in Space is not comprehensive enough for a reference work, but contains more than enough information for an introduction to the subject. As will no doubt seem somewhat odd several years from now, an epilogue covers Project Constellation, with several illustrations of the Orion spacecraft. A good book.
Superstructures in Space, Michael H Gorn (2008, Merrell, ISBN 978-1-8589-4417-3, 185 pp + acknowledgments and index)