Need More Room on the ISS? Just Inflate a Module
Kyle Maxey posted on January 15, 2013 |

Even with the shuttle fleet out of service, NASA still has a vested in interest in the International Space Station. In an effort to further expand the ISS’s capabilities, NASA has awarded Bigelow Aerospace an $18 million contract to “provide a new addition to the International Space Station.”

While that’s easily the vaguest contract requirement of all time, Bigelow’s addition to the ISS could be modeled after its BA 330 design, which, unlike the ISS’s previous modules, is inflatable.

One of the main advantages of creating an inflatable module is that it can be stored much more efficiently on a delivery rocket, then expanded to its full size once in orbit. In fact, when fully inflated, the current BA 330 modules are 13.7 meters long and 6.7 meters in diameter. At that size, even adding a single BA 330 would greatly increase the station’s volume.

But Bigelow’s module could do more than just make the station bigger. According to Bigelow Aerospace, “[the] BA 330 utilizes an innovative Micrometeorite and Orbital Debris Shield. Hypervelocity tests conducted by Bigelow Aerospace have demonstrated that this shielding structure provides protection superior to that of the traditional ‘aluminum can’ designs.” Or, in other words, Bigelow’s addition to the ISS will probably be safer from micrometeorites than previous modules.

Sounds like a win, win to me.

Images Courtesy of Bigelow Aerospace

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