NASA testing SpaceX inflatable pod for Mars trips to save millions of dollars on launch costs
NASA has initiated the testing of Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) – an inflated habitat (compartment) for astronauts that could be expanded in Space and provide 20 times more room than present metal cabins. Also, it would save a lot of space as it can be inflated. The main idea is to materialize wish to deploy these expandable habitats as crew living quarters during the three-year trips to and from Mars.
NASA launched this 3,100-pound module aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule on Saturday that reached the International Space Station on Sunday. A robot arm was used to unpack this expandable module and attach it to the International Space Stations (ISS), flowing about 250 miles above Earth. The module is manufactured and owned by Bigelow Aerospace, based in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
BEAM is made from impact-resistant, Kevlar-like material and some other type of fabrics for strength and light weight credentials. That means no metal, thus, a very lightweight habitat that could save millions of dollars in launch costs. NASA expects it to provide better protections from space radiation as well. The test run would also provide data about its capacity to withstand the temperature. With the help of installed sensors, the team would also observe orbital debris and micro-meteoroid impacts.
According to NASA, it could be inflated in as fast as four minutes. The maker has dubbed it as B300 and is primarily developed to be free-floating habitat. It’s scheduled to be expanded in May this year and is expected to add 12,000 cubic feet or 30 percent additional space and would support NASA and commercial projects including occasional space tourist.
So, now NASA sees future space habitats as inflatable, especially because it eying to send astronauts on Mars in 2030s.
Source: NRI World