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SPACE TRAVEL
Working With NASA On The Space Structures Of The Future
by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) Dec 23, 2013


NASA is interested in advancing the technologies behind inflatable habitats which have the potential to serve as a lightweight and durable supplement to current human spaceflight architectures. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA is seeking to advance a technology with the potential to drastically change how we envision transporting and safeguarding astronauts: inflatable structures.

Space structure engineers and designers have identified inflatables as a lightweight and durable supplement to current human spaceflight architectures. NASA has recognized a number of potential applications for the versatile technology including use as an airlock for spacewalking astronauts, an expandable living space for crewed spacecraft on long duration missions, an inflatable habitat on a planetary surface, and even a bag to capture and return an asteroid.

In addition to having significant benefits in space, inflatable structures also possess numerous terrestrial applications; quickly deployable-durable habitats, hyperbaric chambers, deployable shock absorbers, storm surge protection device

Engineers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) are currently offering co-development opportunities focusing on four important technologies necessary for improving the performance of inflatable structures:

1.The development of a flexible, inflatable bladder capable of maintaining elasticity in the harsh cold of space (-50 Fahrenheit) and exhibiting a low permeability to minimize the chance for leaks. Such a structure could also serve as a cold temperature storage tank for numerous industries here on Earth.

2.Analysis and testing of high strength and high stiffness advanced materials like Kevlar or Vectran to verify their potential as construction materials.

3.Innovative ways to monitor the health of inflatables and conduct repairs. Engineers are especially interested in developing non-invasive monitoring of structural layers and low power ways of sensing important traits like pressure, temperature, physical strain and radiation exposure.

4.Methods for integrating substructures into a large inflatable habitat.

Co-development can take the form of collaborations, mutual knowledge sharing and exchange of services. These co-developments have broad applications within diverse industries including Department of Defense (DoD), energy, medical, advanced manufacturing, oil and gas, robotics, sub-sea exploration/production, first responders, aerospace and other industries and academia.

For information on partnership opportunities at JSC, visit here.

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