Space Sta Getting Inflatable Room, a Cosmic first

69
Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 9:47 PM

Space Sta astronauts are getting their first inflatable room. It'south a technology demo meant to pave the way for moon bases and Mars expeditions, as well as orbiting outposts catering to scientists and tourists.

Forget blowup air mattresses. Space Sta astronauts are getting their first inflatable room.

It'south a technology demo meant to pave the way for moon bases and Mars expeditions, as well as orbiting outposts catering to scientists and tourists. Bigelow Aerospace is behind the experiment, which will obtain a ride to the International Space Sta with another private space company.

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon rocket is set to launch late Friday afternoon, carrying a capsule full of supplies with the pioneering pod in its trunk. It'll be SpaceX'south first Sta delivery since a launch accident halted shipments last June.

Once attached to the station, the soft-sided Bigelow compartment will be inflated to the size of a tiny bedroom. The Bigelow Expandable Action Module, BEAM for short, will stay there for two years — with astronauts occasionally ducking in. It'll be the first time an astronaut steps interior an expandable habitat structure in space.

"It'south not just historic for our company, which obviously is the case, but I think it'south historic for the architecture," said Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, and owner of Budget Suites of America.

As a precursor to larger systems, Bigelow said BEAM could "modify the all dynamic for human habitation" in space.

In the meantime, companies— even countries — are clamoring to keep their own experiments interior the vacant BEAM, Bigelow said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. If everything goes well, that following commercial step could happen in maybe six months, he said.

The N Las Vegas-based company won't divulge the material used for BEAM'south outer layers — or even how many layers — just that the layers are spread out to absorb and crack up any penetrating bits of space junk. Back when NASA was working on the technology in the one thousand nine hundred ninety, a combination of Nextel, Kevlar, foam and other fabric formed the multilayer shield.

NASA called its project TransHab, for Transit Habitat. It never flew to space, despite elaborate blueprints and ground mock-ups. Designers envisioned an inflatable, four-level compartment, complete with dining, sleeping and exercising areas for station crews.

Congress canceled TransHab in two-thousandth and Bigelow Aerospace bought the patent from NASA. The company launched a pair of expandable spacecraft a decade ago from Russia as an experiment. Called Beginning I and II, they're still orbiting.

NASA, meanwhile, paid Bigelow Aerospace $17.eight million for the upcoming test flight, making the BEAM the most affordable module ever launched to the space station, said Michael Gold, director of operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace.

Expandable habitats love BEAM, executive noted, necessity to be just as strong — or stronger — than the standard metal cylinders that create up the current space station. BEAM has proven to be equal or better against space debris than metal, said NASA project manager Rajib Dasgupta.

Bigelow goes as distant as to say: "The aluminum cans are antiquated."

Beyond low-Earth orbit, radiation poses increased health risks to crews interior aluminum walls. So inflatable spacecraft, he said, are cheaper, bigger, safer and, potentially, longer lasting.

Bigelow said BEAM is nothing love a single-membrane balloon — "it'south not going to go bang" — or even a football. Think steel belts in a car tire. Even then, "there really isn't much of a comparison, there really isn't. It'south pretty novel."

The beauty of expandable habitats is their compactness for launch. BEAM will travel in the Dragon capsule'south unpressurized compartment; the space station'south large robot arm will grab the structure and attach it to a berthing port. BEAM will widen four times in vol when it's inflated in late May, with a tiny Sta air at first, then special inflation tanks.

The collapsed BEAM measures about seven feet long (two meters) and 8 feet (2½ meters) in diameter. Inflated, it'll be about thirteen feet long (four meters) and 10½ feet (three meters) in diameter, and provide five hundred sixty-five cubic feet (sixteen cubic meters) of space, about the size of a small bedroom.

BEAM has been bundled up and unopened for more than a year — it should've flown latest fall, but was delayed by the SpaceX rocket grounding. Bigelow stressed that the main purpose is testing and they don't know presently how well it'll work after being compressed for so long.

The chamber will stay keep for two years, providing measurements on radiation, impact resistance and temperature. Astronauts will venture interior four to six times a year to inspect surfaces, gather air and microbial samples, and modify out sensors. Otherwise, the hatch will remain sealed.

After two years, BEAM will be slice loose, eventually burning up on re-entry.

Bigelow Aerospace has plans for a much larger expandable habitat B330, providing 11.654 cubic feet (three hundred thirty cubic meters) of internal space, the size of a couple of buses. Then there'south the company'south envisioned Olympus, a supersize space station-hotel combo. NASA, meanwhile, imagines inflatable modules at Mars awaiting astronauts traveling in the traditional Orion spacecraft that's hooked up with inflatable compartments to ease the eight-month, one-way journey.

"It'south an necessary piece to the human space exploration puzzle," Gold said. "Regardless of where you go, you necessity a space to live and work."

——

Online:

Bigelow Aerospace: http://bigelowaerospace. com/

NASA: http://www. nasa. gov/mission—pages/station/main/index. html

READ ALSO
Robot Walks Out of 3-D Printer After Being Completed

Robot Walks Out of 3-D Printer After Being Completed

With the exception of its battery and motor, everything within the robot is made in a single printing run, including all of the hydraulic liquid-filled tubes that assistance the robot move.

54
Another Study Says Warming May Be Worse Than Experts Think

Another Study Says Warming May Be Worse Than Experts Think

It all comes down to clouds and how much heat they're trapping. According to the study published Thursday in the journal Science, computer model simulations declare there is more ice and less liquid water in clouds than a decade of satellite observations...

82
FBI Continues to Debate Sharing iPhone Hack With Apple

FBI Continues to Debate Sharing iPhone Hack With Apple

details about how the bureau hacked into an iPhone linked to a CA terrorism investigation, the bureau'south director says. James Comey discussed the situation during a speech Wednesday evening at Kenyon College in Ohio.

56
Youthful Timberwolves have their coming-out party in west over GSW

Youthful Timberwolves have their coming-out party in west over GSW

"I look the Timberwolves on TV and .. click."Maybe it'south time to modify the channel again. O'Neal was among the many watching Tuesday night when the youthful Timberwolves stunned the history-chasing Golden State Warriors at residence with a 124-117...

62