That’s now five space station prototypes blown up for science.
Colorado company Sierra Space, which creates an inflatable module for International Space Station (the successor to the International Space Station), intentionally detonated a new design on August 17 that includes a metal plate. (In this case, the plate was a cheaper alternative to a window, but metal can also be used to simulate motorized attachments or other items.)
These “blast tests,” performed using “soft goods” created by Delaware-based ILC Dover, are necessary to test the limits of each unit at a third scale before the design can fly spaceSierra Space officials He stressed in a press release Released on Wednesday (September 20). Soft goods are stitched and woven fabrics, mostly Vectran, that become stiff when blown.
Sierra aims to have the module ready in 2030 for the Orbital Reef space station led by Jeff Bezos. Blue originalwhich received an early stage NASA Finance. Sierra also plans to provide a vessel capable of carrying cargo and crew Dream catcherwhich has undergone some flight testing over the years.
Related: NASA is looking to create special outposts to build on the legacy of the International Space Station
“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” Sean Buckley, senior director of engineering and director of product development at Sierra Space Destinations, said in the release. He said last month’s testing “provides the necessary engineering foundation” for large-scale testing of the unit, called LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment).
Ultimate Burst Pressure (UBP) test results showed a 33% margin over certification standards for a full-sized module, which Sierra Space officials said represents a roughly 20% improvement over previous designs.
Sierra previously passed a four-way set of tests on LIFE prototypes. Two more UBP tests were performed in July and November 2022; They both kept Boost pressure In test units even exploded. Then two Creep testswhere the units had to spend long periods of time under higher than normal pressures, was completed in December 2022 and February 2023.
All of these tests were conducted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama; Sierra also recently signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with this center for more LIFE work.
The International Space Station has been operating in space since 1998, and remains in excellent health. However, the station’s international partners and NASA have essentially agreed to operate the orbital complex until 2030. (Russia is, for now, only committed to 2028; while the space station has normal relations with that partner, this is internationally condemned.) . War in Ukraine She has cut off most of her other partnerships.)
NASA is also laying the groundwork for future space stations to replace the aging research facility. These will be commercial facilities, with NASA participation and funding. In 2021 the agency Funding was granted to three federations (including Blue Origin’s) to receive development assistance for this effort.
Additionally, a Houston-based company Axiom Space He has a separate agreement to Create your own space station modules It will be attached to the International Space Station starting in 2026. The assembly will eventually be separated into a free-flying space station.
In recent months, NASA officials have said they are doing everything they can to make this happen Minimize any gap In the availability of research between the International Space Station and new space stations. Given that the agency wants a two-year transition period, this means at least one of the new stations should open around 2028, at least under the current timeline. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a strategy In March of this year with a proposed plan for the transitional phase.
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