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SpaceX Delivers World's First Inflatable Room For Astronauts (go.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship which launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday delivered the world's first inflatable room for astronauts. It arrived at the ISS on Sunday after station astronauts used a robot arm to capture the Dragon, orbiting 250 miles above Earth. The compartment should swell to the size of a small bedroom once filled with air next month. It will be attached to the space station this Saturday, but won't be inflated until the end of May. NASA envisions inflatable habitats in a couple decades at Mars, while Bigelow Aerospace aims to launch a pair of inflatable space stations in just four years for commercial lease. Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be restricted from the six on-board astronauts while NASA tests the chamber to see how it performs. The rocket used to launch the cargo ship successfully landed on a floating drone ship for the first time ever. It was the second time SpaceX successfully landed one of its rockets post-launch; the first time was in December, when the company's Falcon 9 rocket touched down at a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after putting a satellite into space.
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SpaceX Delivers World's First Inflatable Room For Astronauts

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @08:42PM (#51881743)
    i always wanted one, too.
  • I don't know anything about living situations in space, but I can't imagine there would be a great deal of privacy. Maybe this is an elegant solution for people who need a degree of solitude, and might broaden the selection criteria for the space program?
    • Sounds like a better solution for those that want to investigate the effects of zero-g sex... the walls would be much more comfortable to bounce off of than the tin can walls of an old-fashioned habitat.
      • Once inflated those walls will be hard as steel, albeit with a nice cloth covering.
      • Already been investigated, it was found that men can't perform in zero G because of lack of blood pressure, so it is a no go.

    • Any "space program" is going to be staffed like a submarine.

      You might prefer a "space vacation" where they cater to customers' desires. Musk will have private tourists on Mars before NASA gets there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Way back in the day, Porn saved the Compact Disk Player, CD.

    Then, Porn, saved the Internet (post NSF net).

    Now Porn Saves ISS!

    Ha ha

  • Whatever happened to good old titatium? Are we running out of?
    I know launch costs are considerable, but living in a bouncy castle on Mars does not seem like a very good idea to me.
    • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @09:39PM (#51881951) Homepage Journal

      Whatever happened to good old titatium? Are we running out of?

      Titanium is hard to work with, not as strong as kevlar fibers in this sort of application, suffers damage from radiation and temperature swings, and eventually cracks and shatters.

      At a pressure differential approaching 1 atm, the inflated module will be approximately as stiff as a hard side structure at a fraction of the weight, and will actually be stronger in most respects. Should also last longer, but that's what testing is for!

      • pop a can of self-expanding bulletproof foam [slashdot.org] to fill up the walls of the new module, and you have arguable a safer module than the existing modules.
        • I think you're not picturing the module correctly. It's like a balloon, which you work inside. It' doesn't have air chambers other than the main one they would operate in. There's no wall bladders to fill.

          Other than that, the bulletproof foam isn't dispensed out of a can. It's created by a method of casting in a mold.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The first half of what you said isn't really true. All metals are much more resistant to radiation damage than polymers. Nearly everything fatigues, not just metals. Plastics tend to be prone to creep, outgassing (think gases that become condensed liquids/solids on solar panels), embrittlement at low temperatures, etc. I don't think it's obvious that these modules are great for space applications, though lunar / mars structures should be more certain. Exciting to see it tested though.

        • Which testing is the exact point of this exercise.

        • I would have thought that there would be a lot of differences between considerations for accommodation in open space (a radiation resistant spheroid with no need to account for gravity presumably), the moon (radiation resistance, gravity, and presumably a hemisphere or some other shape with appreciable "floor area") and Mars, more gravity, Maybe build something inside a cave that conforms to the walls inside and need not be exposed to so much radiation or flying paint chips?

          So much so that I would think i

          • by spauldo ( 118058 )

            There's a lot of people that think we should be taking a closer look at lava tubes on the moon [wikipedia.org] as potential sites for bases. The same could be used on Mars. No radiation, stable temperature, protection from micrometeorites... seems a no-brainer, except we haven't actually explored them yet.

            With less gravity, you can have larger caves. There is evidence for lava tubes on the moon that you could fit stadiums in.

            Something like this could be a cost effective way of using natural caves and lava tubes as base

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        "suffers damage from radiation and temperature swings, and eventually cracks and shatters."

        Odd, the SR-71 is said to get stronger with time as each flight tempers the metal more and more.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "is said to"? By who?

          Also, did they specify stronger or tougher? In engineering, the distinction is important.

    • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

      If it works exceedingly well as hoped for, the fact that it's an inflatable means storage is easier.

      This would allow for much more construction to be performed or easier delivery. Like, more food, oxygen and water since the inflatable rooms are lighter and take less space while deflated.

  • An early prototype [kicksandgi...entals.com]

  • Should be:

    "SpaceX Delivers First Out Of This World Inflatable Room For Astronauts"

  • by edittard ( 805475 ) on Sunday April 10, 2016 @11:52PM (#51882381)

    in a couple decades at Mars

    If I wrote like that I'd submit anonymously too.

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @01:27AM (#51882541)

    Listening to NASA talk about how they would like to have these in Mars in a "couple of decades" is just depressing.
    Seriously, when did America become the country of thinking small?

    A couple of decades? For F's sake, we went to the moon nearly 60 years ago! 60 freaking years later and we are not even up to the same level as before the microprocessor was invented.

    • Yeah, we sent men to the moon 60 years ago.. and had no workable plan for actually staying there. It was all political theater, not a concerted effort to build a viable colony.

      Mars is just as much theater really. It's going to be hellishly difficult to get people there and back again. Unless there is a VERY solid groundwork behind the effort, it'll be another flashy "We did this!" mission. NASA can't afford to make any mistakes in what might be their only chance to get funded for something like this for

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 11, 2016 @02:33AM (#51882701) Journal

    I misread it as "first inflatable astronaut". That auto-pilot scene from "Airplane" came to mind.

  • I have seen a bounce house before. They're actually pretty common. Bounce houses have some rules about rough play, but can still be used by astronauts. So this is definitely not the world's first inflatable room, for astronauts or otherwise. Perhaps this is "Space's First Inflatable Room"? Or more accurately LEO's first.
  • What about Bigelow's Genesis 1 and 2 inflatable modules. They have been on orbit for many years. http://bigelowaerospace.com/bi... [bigelowaerospace.com]
  • I'm curious what kind of testing is involved? I'm assuming that having people board the module will not happen for some time until they are pretty sure it can't suffer a catastrophic blowout. Unless they've already done vacuum testing on the ground?

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