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Company Tests Its Inflatable Space Station By Blowing It Up

Colorado-based Sierra Space performed a so-called stress test on a full-size, inflatable station structure. 

A company has tested their space station – by blowing it up.

Colorado-based Sierra Space performed a so-called stress test on a full-size, inflatable station structure. The test on the family home-sized unit saw it expand to 77 psi before it burst, which well exceeds NASA’s recommended level of 60.8 psi.


The pressure shell for the 20ft LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) habitat is made of expandable “softgoods,” or woven fabrics that perform like a rigid structure once inflated. During an Ultimate Burst Pressure (UBP) test, the teams inflate the test article until it fails, which helps determine how strong its softgoods materials would be under extreme stresses in the harsh environment of space.

In practice, the LIFE space station would be packed inside a standard five-meter rocket fairing and be able to inflate to the size of a three-story apartment building in orbit.


Sierra Space say that in three launches the modular LIFE units can create a living and working environment in space that is larger, volume-wise than the entire International Space Station (ISS).


They have plans to make larger designs In the coming years, stating “a 1400-cubic-meter version, packaged inside a seven-meter rocket fairing, for example, would surpass the size of the ISS in a single launch.” “We are driving the reinvention of the space station that will shape a new era of humanity’s exploration and discovery in Low Earth Orbit and beyond,” said Sierra Space CEO Tom Vice.


“Sierra Space’s inflatable space station technology offers the absolute largest in-space pressured volume, the best unit economics per on-orbit volume and lowest launch and total operating costs. “Having the best unit economics positions Sierra Space as the category leader in microgravity research and product development, providing customers with the most attractive return on their investment.”


The recent full-scale test was performed with support from NASA via a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement in which NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center provides services to Sierra Space in support of its exploration and commercial Low Earth Orbit technology development and risk reduction activities.

This test occurred at Marshall in Huntsville, Alabama, on Redstone Arsenal adjacent to the historic Saturn 1/1B test stand.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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