HOUSTON – Astronauts may one day orbit the moon, live on the lunar surface, or travel to Mars in an inflatable multi-floor habitat, should the design of a Colorado company by the NASA will be taken over.
Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) gave a detailed overview of its full model for NASA's Lunar Gateway on Wednesday (August 21). , a man-made orbital platform to support missions on the lunar surface and future flights int o space. The SNC Ground Prototype was developed under the Agency's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NEXTSTEP 2) contract and is one of five concepts NASA has adopted in its Artemis Program Architecture  "The Johnson Space Center has just completed the test and put a crew in it for about three days – what they call a" day-in-the-life test, "said Steve Lindsey, vice president of SNC Space Exploration Systems and a former NASA astronaut. "Here you go through a simulated mission, testing the functionality of space, and how well it works to accomplish the mission."
"We do not have the official results of these tests, but we were told that they were very, very good, so we are very excited about it, "Lindsey said.
Key SNC's Habitat design is based on its ability to increase volume once it's launched into space. The Large Inflatable Fabric Environment (LIFE) habitat may be compact enough to fit into an 18 foot (5.4 meter) long missile cladding, but then to a diameter of 27 feet and a length of 27 feet (8 feet) 8 m).
The print volume of the LIFE is 300 cubic feet cubic meters) or about one third of the print volume of the International Space Station .
"We wanted to use the space as much as possible for the astronauts as a habitat but still fit in a rocket," explained Lindsey. "The advantage of an inflatable boat is that you can launch it in a payload fairing, bring it into space and then, once inflated [there]expand to a size like this and get a huge amount of volume."
The exterior of the prototype LIFE habitat is a urethane print Bubble, a nylon lining and a woven backing layer of Vectran fabric. Additional insulating layers would be added to a space bound thermal control and micrometeorite module.
In developing the habitat, SNC also drew on its experience of building a small spacecraft, which NASA commissioned with six cargo-supply missions to the space station in 2021.
"We've used many of the technologies. Example: This module on the back is based on a cargo module that comes from the Dream Chaser program," Lindsey said, referring to the logistics and control module located at the rear of the Habitat LIFE.
Related: Dreamhunters: Sierra Nevada's Design for Space
The interior of the body of water is divided into three floors, maximizing the use of print volume. For the prototype, SNC equipped the floors with a science laboratory, a weightlessness garden, a medical department, individual crew rooms, a waste disposal system (or a bathroom) and a galley.
"We made a great effort to relocate human factors so we had research stations, robotic workstations, crew quarters and everything they needed to function." Lindsey said.
Away from the prototype are any windows for the astronauts to see the moon (or Mars), but these could be added.
"We can install windows and we have a precaution," Lindsey told Space.com. "We keep working on this contract, and that's one of the things we're testing."
In addition, according to SNC's gateway concept, NASA rates NeXTSTEP-2 models from Bigelow Aerospace (specialized in inflatable habitats), Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The agency recently announced its intention to place an order for a "minimal" habitat module to support a first version of the gateway to be deployed by 2024. However, a larger Gateway Habitat module might still be required. Continuing operations on the lunar surface.
SNC is also reviewing other applications for its design based on the work it has done with the soil prototype of the Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Large Inflatable Fabric Environment (LIFE) habitat, part of the Lunar Gateway ground prototype, on August 21st 2019 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "lazy-image-loading lazyload optional-image" onerror = "this.parentNode.replaceChild (window.missingImage (), this)" sizes = "auto" data-normal = "https: // vanilla.futurecdn.net/space/media/img/missing-image.svg "src =" https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Fz9iN7xScRYm9GwCFPR6gP-320-80.jpg "srcset =" https: // cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Fz9iN7xScRYm9GwCFPR6gP-320-80.jpg 320w, https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Fz9iN7xScRYm9GwCFPR6gP-650-80.jpg 650w "data-sizes =" auto "data -original-mos = "https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Fz9iN7xScRYm9GwCFPR6gP.jpg" data-pin-media = "https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/Fz9iN7xScRYm9GwCFPR6gP.jpg" / >
(Photo credit: Robert Z. Pearlman / S pace.com)
"We are looking for n here not only to the gateway, but also to a possible human dwelling on the surface of planets, be it the surface of the moon or the surface of Mars ] in the future, "said Lindsey. "Depending on the needs of the crew, the size can be adjusted accordingly, and this particular effort required a thousand-day transit mission to Mars, so the size is actually sized to support it."
Robert Pearlman is a Space.com contributing author and publisher of collectSPACE.com a Space.com partner site and leading publication of space News. Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and on Twitter at @ collectSPACE . Follow us @SpaceTotcom Facebook and Google+ .