Inflatable Habitats: Expanding Space Exploration
Did you know?
Missions to Mars can take around three years roundtrip, and astronauts on those missions require a place to live and work comfortably—a habitat. Today’s habitats, on the International Space Station (ISS) for instance, are constrained in size by their launch vehicles. But with new, in-house manufacturing methods that Lockheed Martin is developing, future habitats will be much more spacious.
How it works:
Inflatable habitats are made up of incredibly strong and super flexible materials that are sewn together and later expanded into a large structure. At launch, the habitat is folded and packed to fit inside a rocket fairing, but once inflated can be substantially larger than any metallic habitat. These large, inflatable habitats can be used at Mars, but can also be used in low-Earth orbit or even the Moon.
Inflatables? Made of fabric? In space? Is that safe?
Inflatable habitats in space are absolutely safe and have already been used on the ISS. The material we use is called Vectran™, which is five times stronger than steel and 10 times stronger than aluminum. We also conduct extensive testing, including over-inflating test units to the point of bursting.
These burst tests have already proven that the technology is six times stronger than the pressure it will be used at in space. All of these tests give us the confidence needed to send astronauts to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond.