Inflatable habitat: A home for humans in space, Mars, the moon, and beyond
NASA, in a public-private tie-up under NextSTEP project, develops deep space exploration capabilities with the help of private partnership.
Have you considered where humans will live if they reach Mars, the moon, or any other planet beyond? NASA has been looking for options, and a company that the space agency collaborated with is ready with a prototype of an inflatable in-space habitat. Currently, we have the international space station where astronauts visiting space live for months. But why not something portable?
Sierra Nevada Corporation was among six companies selected in 2016 for developing ground prototypes for deep space habitation of the future. For the first time, the company has showcased a prototype of the habitat. This inflatable habitat measures 8 metres long and has a diameter of 8 metres. It has a large volume of 300 cubic metres as compared to its size and is about one-third the size of the International Space Station.
NASA, in a public-private tie-up under NextSTEP project, develops deep space exploration capabilities with the help of private partnership. The companies involved in the project are Sierra Nevada, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Bigelow Aerospace.
The company says that the selling point of the habitat is its size. It has been made up using multi-layered fabric material that can be compressed for launch and re-inflated once in space. The company says that it can fit within a standard payload fairing used for launch vehicles and is light enough for any rockets to launch to the Moon.
The vice president of the company's Space Exploration Systems said, "We're offering a huge amount of volume in a small amount of space."
The inflatable habitat can also be used as a low-Earth orbit space station, as a habitat on the surface of the moon, Mars, or beyond. Now, NASA astronauts will spend three days or more in the prototype and evaluate it. This process happens with every project delivered by a private company to NASA.
According to reports, the three-story habitat can accommodate four astronauts along with space for food, movies, and more. Astronauts can stay in the habitat for six-months, but it lacks windows.