Why did NASA blew up an alien habitat in Texas?

When a futuristic home for astronauts explodes, celebration may seem out of place, but engineers at a commercial space company couldn’t be more proud of what they stumbled upon on the outside. outer space a house.

Sierra Space, working on one of the three NASA Contracts to develop commercial space stations, it has just completed something called an “absolute pressure explosion” test on a life-size model of its space habitat in low Earth orbit. The home of lifeshort for the large, flexible, inflatable environment that could one day serve as rooms on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space station, Coral reefs. If all goes well, the companies hope to start building the station in 2026.

But NASA first has to run the structure through a challenge to make sure it’s safe for humans.

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The inflatable house was pumped to the breaking point on July 9 to find out the maximum internal pressure it could withstand before it failed. The test was videotaped from various angles at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The company released footage of the demonstration this week.

Play the video below for the audio experience.

“Some media outlets thought ‘blasting’ meant inflation,” Alex Walker, a Sierra Space spokesperson, told Mashable. No, ‘blow up’ means to explode.

The team was delighted to learn that the house didn’t explode until it hit 192 pounds per square inch (psi), exceeding the safety requirement of 182.4 psi.

For context, the International Space Station, like airplanes, is compressed so that the people on board can breathe. The space laboratory has an internal compact volume Equal to that of a Boeing 747. Normal cabin pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inchaccording to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sierra Space is working with Blue Origin to develop a commercial space station under contract from NASA.
Credit: Sierra Space

NASA awarded Contract worth 130 million dollars To Blue Origin for the commercial space station as the US space agency attempts to transition to a model where companies own and operate destinations in low Earth orbit and NASA becomes one of the many customers who live and work there. NASA hopes this shift will lower the cost of doing orbital science so you can focus on it Human exploration missions To the moon and possibly Mars.

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The LIFE forte is made of a woven fabric called Vectran, which engineers say is five times stronger than steel and has layers that shield from space radiation. Other required tests ensure that it is not punctured by meteorites and other space debris.

The “soft” material may not seem strong enough to stand up to the harsh realities of space or other worlds – in fact, it might look more like a piglet building its house out of straw – but experts say it’s both strong and ideal for packing compact loads on rockets. Vectran is relatively light, which translates to lower missile fuel costs, and it easily folds like a parachute inside the missile’s nose cone.

NASA prepares to test an explosion on a space habitat

the left:
Sierra Space is testing a material to build space habitats.
Credit: Sierra Space

the correct:
after, after:
The forte LIFE appeared at 192 psi [psi].
Credit: Sierra Space

“This substance, when it swells in orbit, you can hit it with a sledgehammer,” Walker said.

“You can hit it with a sledgehammer.”

Many human space exploration experts say that inflatable buildings are the way of the future. These bubble houses can be used not only to orbit around space stations but also Structures on the Moon and Mars. Only one of the LIFE habitats in Sierra Space is about a third the size of the space station, Walker said.

The next step for Habitat is for engineers to test a full-scale model. One is already at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, but the team will make a duplicate to go off at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, next year.

“It’s a step closer to humans living and working in low Earth orbit,” Walker said.