Space Station Blows Up

The orbital balloon: NASA tests blow-up space-craft

A prototype inflatable module is to be tested  aboard the International Space Station to give astronauts an extra bedroom, NASA has announced.

The inflatable module  can be compressed into a 7ft tube for delivery,  and is being heralded as a key component of future exploration and the  development of commercial space travel and research.

It is designed by Bigelow Aerospace, based in  Las Vegas, which has been awarded a $17.8  million (£11m) test  project for the inflatable room – and hopes to develop  space hotels and even planetary bases using the technology.

This artist's impressions shows the Bigelow inflatable space station that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery to the International Space Station. NASA is expected to install the module by 2015This artist’s impressions shows the Bigelow inflatable  space station that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery to the  International Space Station. NASA is expected to install the module by 2015
Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow, left, and NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver with a one third scale model of the inflatable room Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow, left, and  NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver with a one third scale model of the  inflatable room

Astronauts will test the ability of  the  bladder, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM,  to withstand  heat, radiation, debris and other assaults.

Some adventurous scientists might  also try  sleeping in the spare room, which is the first piece of private property to be  blasted into space, NASA said.

Lori Garver, NASA’s deputy administrator,  said as she unveiled the contract award that the inflatable module concept is  simultaneously cutting edge technology and affordable.

‘This partnership agreement for the use of  expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that  can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important  progress in U.S. commercial space innovation,’ she said.

‘The International Space Station is a unique  laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly  increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long  periods.’

Part of NASA’s interest in the inflatable  technology is prompted by its potential for deep space missions.

If the module proves durable during two years  at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and  missions to Mars, Nasa engineer Glen Miller said.

The agency chose Bigelow for the contract  because it was the only company working on inflatable technology, said NASA  deputy administrator Lori Garver.

An artist's rendering of Bigelow Aerospace's balloon-like module attached to the International Space StationAn artist’s rendering of Bigelow Aerospace’s  balloon-like module attached to the International Space Station

Founder and president Robert Bigelow, who  made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in  1999, framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world property venture.

He hopes to sell his spare-tire habitats to  scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space  hotels.

NASA is expected to install the 13ft  blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015.

Mr Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone  space homes the next year.

The new technology provides three times as  much room as the existing aluminium models, and is also easier and less costly  to build, Mr Miller said.

Artist renderings of the module resemble a  tin-foil clown nose grafted on to the main station. It is hardly big enough to  be called a room.

Mr Miller described it as a large closet with  padded white walls and gear and gizmos strung from two central beams.

Attribution: Lewis Smith and Mark Prigg

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About thecommonconstitutionalist

Brent is not a scholar. He’s not an author or speaker (yet). He hasn’t published a book nor does he write articles for magazines (yet). He has no advanced literary degree or pedigree (never will). He is just an American who writes and shares what interests him. He cares about the salvation of this country and a return to its Constitutional roots. He believes in God, country and family.
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