Inflatable Moon Bases Could Be The Future Thanks To Successful SpaceX Delivery Of Unit To ISS [Video]

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon rocket on April 8 and delivered a “pop-up room” to the International Space Station for testing. Following the successful Dragon capsule to the space station, astronauts on the ISS will now have the ability to test the inflatable room in space conditions. The room, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), is the size of a small bedroom. The units are being considered for inflatable moon bases or living quarters on Mars.

Space reveals that an inflatable room was delivered on the Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station for testing. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is designed as an inflatable six-person “orbiting outpost” which is being used as a test prototype for potential inflatable moon bases in the future.

The arrival of the SpaceX Dragon capsule marks a big day for the ISS. It is the first time that two commercial U.S. cargo units have been docked at the space station at the same time. However, it wasn’t just U.S. cargo items being hosted at the ISS. There are currently six vehicles parked at the ISS including the two U.S. commercial cargo units, two Russian crew units, and two Russian cargo re-supply units.

The arrival of the Dragon was highly anticipated as many are hoping for success with the BEAM inflatable unit testing. If proven successful, the unit could be used for future “inflatable rental units” that a Nevada company is hoping to launch in just four years along with the potential for inflatable Mars and moon bases.

The BEAM inflatable project is slated to be set up and stabilized rather quickly. The main objectives outlined by Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA’s International Space Station program, says that the unit will be tested for its ability to block solar radiation and ability to handle space debris. It should be installed by the 15th or 16th of this month, according to Shireman.

“BEAM is going to be installed, we’re thinking [on] the 15th or 16th of this month, so relatively quickly after Dragon arrives. There is a certain period for thermal stabilization once it arrives. The inflation is probably not until the end of May, somewhere around the 25th, 26th of May. There is a lot of work involved in preparing for that and we also want a good quiescent period on board the International Space Station.”

The idea behind the BEAM inflatable unit comes from the ability to create larger spaces requiring less mass. This means that larger cargo units will not need to be designed as the rooms could potentially be compressed due to the unique materials used to create the inflatable rooms.

“When packed, BEAM can be reduced to about half of its normal width and about three-quarters of its normal length.”

This means that while the first test unit is smaller than the current Harmony module, creating a larger unit without building a larger cargo carrier is possible with the new technology. Therefore, BEAM is being touted as offering the ability to get “bigger space habitats into orbit without having to build bigger cargo carriers.”

In addition to delivering the inflatable room to the International Space Station, SpaceX also successfully landed its rocket booster vertically on a floating pad for the first time.

What do you think about the idea of inflatable rental units in space or inflatable moon and Mars bases? Would you rent an inflatable moon base if commercial space flight became common practice and the units passed ISS testing?

[Image via NASA/ Stephanie Schierholz]

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