It has been a while...
Since Bigelow Aerospace had any employees, everyone got laid off in March last year.
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has unveiled plans for an enormous inflatable space station tended by cargo and crew carrying versions of its Dream Chaser spaceplane. "There is no scalable space travel industry without a spaceplane," said SNC chair and owner Eren Ozmen. That's handy, because with the retirement of the Space …
From the Soviet BOR-4 that caught NASA's eye in 1983 to the HL-20 mini-shuttle and the bigger HL-42 , this vehicle concept has had a long, twisting road to space. It almost flew on the on the International Space Station as the Crew Return Vehicle but was cut because of budgetary reasons. Sierra Nevada is running with the idea as the Dream Chaser with some cargo contracts to the ISS and now, maybe, finally, it'll get some people into orbit. Maybe it's time is finally here.
Cheers to Sierra Nevada for keeping this elegant space plane concept alive.
for an April Fool twist (regardless of whether this article is comedic April 1 material), how about the following:
* subcontracted to a company that makes inflatable auto-pilots [think 'Airplane' the movie]
* has face painted around external airlock (with a very surprised look)
* Commissioned by former U.S. President Bill Clinton
MANY more are possible - we ALL have imaginations. Heh.
Not quite sure what the point of an inflatable habitat is.
I would guess it's all about cost. Structural supports are heavy and cost money to launch into orbit.
Rocket fuel tanks are pressurized to make them nice and stiff, and probably to improve fuel pump performance at the same time. As an example, take a couple of empty paper towel rolls and try this experiment:
* Stack weights on a paper towel tube that's pure vertical. Most likely you'll squish it after a small amount of weight.
* Now, inflate a balloon inside the tube [make sure it fills the tube] and observe what the balloon air pressure does to the paper towel tube.
(this is why rocket fuel tanks are pressurized)
So: the air pressure in this case is providing the structural strength. you need air pressure anyway inside the people tank, so you might as well work WITH it. Win-Win
I would assume that, like a car tire, there are re-enforcement bands that keep the pressure from over-inflating the container. With a pre-stress OUTwards, you can actually withstand even MORE stress INWARDS, and depending, it might withstand a collision with a space rock (or space junk) better than a solid structure.
"Steel Belted Radial" space enclosures. Works for me.
"Not quite sure what the point of an inflatable habitat is."
A single, large unit that doesn't need a massively large rocket to get it there. It took a Saturn V to get SkyLab up.
Remember, it's not just a balloon. It's also got rigid sections for things like port holes, mounts for machinery to be attached, airlocks etc. It's all carefully folded almost like Origami in reverse so as it inflates all the relevant bits move in the right direction at the right time.
Thinking about it, with SpaceX multiple launch of 1st stages (their current record is 9 launches and landing with a single 1st stage), they could probably put multiple inflatables up which can be docked to each other as well all the gubbins that needs to go inside. I just got an image of a string of sausages. Piiiiiigs in Spaaaaace!!
The downside is that everything has to fit through an airlock.