Space station to test $17 million inflatable room

NASA will use Activity Module Bigelow expandable to determine the potential benefits of inflatables for exploration and commercial space work.

The Bigelow Aerospace BA 330.

The Bigelow Aerospace BA 330.

(Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

NASA has awarded a contract to explore potential ways to expand the International Space Station.

The agency announced last week that Bigelow Aerospace has been awarded a $ 17.8 million contract to deliver an extension agency inflatable space station. According to NASA, the module Bigelow Expandable Activity “will demonstrate the benefits of this technology space habitat for future exploration and commercial space activities.”

Inflatable Space technology is nothing new. In fact, the first communications satellite Echo liabilities – 1 and 2 – Echo were both inflatable. NASA determined in 1958 that satellites would be too big to fit in the Thor-Delta rocket, so the scientists decided to allow satellites to inflate to reach space.

The idea of ​​an autonomous inflatable habitat even for space exploration has been in place for decades. However, due to budgetary constraints at NASA, the “Habitat Transit”, which was to help the crews to Mars with pneumatic technology, was canceled in 2000.
Bigelow, founded in late 1990, has been working on its own inflatable habitats for years.

Currently, the company offers a BA 330 inflatable habitat that can be added to existing stations or explode on its own. The BA has 330 330 cubic meters of volume and holds up to six crewpeople for a prolonged period of time. According to Bigelow, the protection of radiation BA 330 can at least equal to the International Space Station. The habitat of the “tin can” design includes four large windows to look occupant space.

It is unclear whether the 330 BA or another habitat has been commissioned by NASA. However, the space agency plans to hold a press conference with Bigelow on Wednesday to discuss their plans.

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