Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Model of Inflatable Space Station to Launch Feb 16 63

Posted by timothy
from the long-term-thinking dept.
alex writes "A Russian rocket will launch a 1/3 scale model of of the Bigelow inflatable space station a week from Friday, according to The Space Fellowship. This prototype will carry a thousand personal objects donated by Bigelow Aerospace employees. If all goes well, another prototype should go up by September, and non-Bigelow-employee enthusiasts might be able to contribute their own garbage--err, personal items--to the project. (Via Futurismic)"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Model of Inflatable Space Station to Launch Feb 16

Comments Filter:
  • by ZSpade (812879) on Monday June 05, 2006 @04:25PM (#15475074) Homepage
    That's awesome. And here I thought it was just a lot more talk like usual. You know what's funny is how much of a joke these simplistic little devices are going to make the ISS look like an over funded joke. That said, with out the ISS's prior existance, we probably wouldn't have enough data about how space effects humans to even be doing this. Truly amazing. The one thing I would fear, staying in a giant "bubble" like this... One micrometeorite and pop...
    • If I remember correctly, the thing is armored over the outer skin, with a special coating that's pretty extreme.
    • Why do you need ISS to provide data on humans in space? There are many years' worth of data from Russian and American space stations already. ISS isn't going to add a lot to that, actually.
    • no armor necessary (Score:3, Informative)

      by m874t232 (973431)
      If the thing is properly constructed, the effect of a micrometeorite is no worse than with other constructions. Basically, don't think of an elastic skin that snaps, but something more akin to airtight canvas. If you punch a hole in that, you just get a small hole, nothing more. If anything, inflatable space stations are easier to repair than other constructions.
      • If you punch a hole in that, you just get a small hole, nothing more. If anything, inflatable space stations are easier to repair than other constructions.

        Indeed --- they can even be made, quite simply, self-healing; make your station twin-walled, and fill the cavity with volatile goo. Anything punctures the outside, and the goo will ooze out, harden , and seal the hole. Very simple. (Any object big enough and moving fast enough to penetrate both layers is going to wipe out your habitat anyway and isn't

        • Will the goo harden in orbit, or does it need an oxidizing agent? Hardening seems like a chemical reaction that would need something to react with. Perhaps there's a coating on the outer surface of the membrane?
          • Will the goo harden in orbit, or does it need an oxidizing agent?

            Vacuum has amazing evaporative power --- some substance with a volatile solvent in it should work fine. Exposed to vacuum, the solvent will evaporate off in practically no time. Plain PVA glue would most likely work, although you might need some thickener to reduce the flow rate.

            I don't know what the Bigelow hab is using; from the very limited information available, I don't think they're going for this approach. I suspect they're just using an ordinary tough skin.

            (The Apollo spacesuits had cooling systems that worked by evaporating water. The water evaporated so quickly that they had to keep the coolers turned all the way down, or the astronauts got far too cold...)

        • Where the lunar tunnels had neutral buoyancy balloons in them that were partially filled with a hole-plugging goo. The suction from a breach drew the balloon to the hole, where it was burst by being forced through the hole by the pressure differential. The goo (and balloon material) formed a temporary patch
    • I've seen a video show that described the inflatable habitat. The "skin" is actually many layers of alternating materials to seal, insulate and absorb micrometeoriods, maybe some of the layers are self-healing, but I'm not certain. They showed a sample inflation in a vacuum chamber and it's pretty impressive.
    • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Monday June 05, 2006 @05:11PM (#15475458)
      First of all, they are hardly simplistic little devices. NASA spent a fair bit of money and several years researching and development of the concept. No doubt Heinlein, Clark, or Asimov also discussed the idea of inflatable modules long before Bigelow heard about them.

      NASA's Transhab project was originally intended to utilize inflatable modules for the ISS. Like most aerospace projects, it ran over budget and the program was cancelled before all of the technical challenges like reliable inflation (these are much more complex than a balloon) were solved. Bigelow bought rights on the NASA patents when he started his aerospace company, and has been working on ironing out the remaining design details and figuring how to reliably manufacture them for several years now.

      Second, these are not quite as revolutionary as they sound. They do offer significantly more internal volume for the weight, but not a huge amount. I think it's about double for Bigelow's layouts. There is a lot of core framework, life support, etc equipment associated with each module. They also only address the issue of creating interior volume, not fueling, power, temperature control, docking, and all the other major parts of a space station. They also don't offer much benefit for certain ISS modules like Columbus, which has built in experimental stations that can't realistically be inflated and would be difficult at best to install in a SpaceHab module after inflation. However, the technology may later be applied in areas other than habitation. One proposal is replacing the aluminum trusses that support solar panels with inflatable tubes that become sufficiently rigid when pressurized. Third, they may actually be safer than current aluminum modules. The synthetic materials they are made from are even stronger than Kevlar, and layered just like the aluminum/mylar/whatever else currently used. The difference is that these are elastic, so they can be folded up conveniently for launch, and they maintain their outer shape via pressure rather than framing. The same radiation protection would be offered. When a micrometeorites do hit they will probably not be massive enough to penetrate the skin. If one does, you would have a slow leak that could be located and repaired. They aren't inflated to near their ultimate yield strength like balloons are, so a small breach would not immediately grow into a tear that would cause them to "pop."

      Check out some of NASA's conceptual drawings [nasa.gov] for a better idea what these modules are really like.
    • ou know what's funny is how much of a joke these simplistic little devices are going to make the ISS look like an over funded joke. That said, with out the ISS's prior existance, we probably wouldn't have enough data about how space effects humans to even be doing this. The one thing I would fear, staying in a giant "bubble" like this... One micrometeorite and pop...
      Three sentences, not one factually correct.
    • That said, with out the ISS's prior existance, we probably wouldn't have enough data about how space effects humans to even be doing this.
      Like we didn't collect enough between the Mir and Skylab? I mean, a group of cosmonaughts stayed on the Mir for a whole leap year(366 days)!

      The one thing I would fear, staying in a giant "bubble" like this... One micrometeorite and pop...

      It won't pop like a ballon here.
      This is a complex sandwich of various materials, including metal foils and kevlar. In most ways it's
  • I think commercial space exploration essential -- we've realized most of the governmental benefits of space travel (GPS, weather satellites, went to the moon ...), and except for science (which isn't enough to drive a space program) and the military (which won't pay for other stuff), nothing will happen unless we all start paying for it directly.

    However, the government always like to meddle in private people's affairs. Sometimes it's necessary (someone should probably make sure the launch vehicles don't

    • I wonder if they'll launch my collection of broken glass and sewing needles?
      • The real question is: will there be a rule against taking sharp objects on board space planes?
        • Or, relating to your original comment, should there be a regulation against sharp objects on inflatable spacecrafts, assuming they are actually dangerous? I suppose such a regulation would be unnecessary, as the company that creates the craft would have incentive to ban dangerous objects themselves in order to protect their property and reputation.
    • Absolutely agree, and one of the first things they should look at is "are you allowed to send balloons into space filled with rings, bottle-caps and toys".
  • Inflatable ISS, coming to a McDonald's Playplace near you!
  • Micrometeorites? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by gmuslera (3436)
    In space, no one can hear balloons exploding (and you screaming inside)
  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Monday June 05, 2006 @04:31PM (#15475121) Homepage
    Inflatable model to be launched to space station?
  • cool! (Score:3, Funny)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Monday June 05, 2006 @04:32PM (#15475125) Homepage
    Can I put my collection of 19th century sewing needles in it? :)
  • Finally... (Score:3, Funny)

    by KodeJockey (928302) on Monday June 05, 2006 @04:32PM (#15475128)
    Its the dream home my inflatable doll always wanted.
  • I didn't know you could stutter while typing...
  • by Ana10g (966013)
    Okay, so when this demonstration is over, what are they going to do with all that crap when the piñata pops? More orbital junk?
    • Given this is a prototype, I doubt it'll suffer a sudden loss of pressure. It'll probably lose pressure slowly. Assuming that it does this, I guess the items inside will stay inside, and the risk will be minimal.

      Of course, I am definately not a rocket scientist, so take this with a pinch of NaCl.
      • Even with a sudden loss of pressure, if the material is designed not to tear easily, the items should mostly stay inside. Just because it's inflatable doesn't mean it has to pop like a latex balloon when it gets a hole in it. Once the initial discharge of gas is complete, there will be nothing forcing the objects to leave the inside.
    • Okay, so when this demonstration is over, what are they going to do with all that crap when the piñata pops? More orbital junk?
      Right until the time it hits the atmosphere... if there are any English coins in the collection it would then give new meaning to the phrase "hey, check out that flaming queen." (Too much Family Guy for me...)
  • Getting media attention will be hard around that time with the world cup going on.
  • Do we want it blow up or not?
  • Dr. Schlock [wikipedia.org] would be proud.
  • I love the idea, but I'm sort of curious about putting instruments inside, mounted to walls and things like that. Having everything floating around in a big balloon would be annoying.

    For example, astronauts inside would want some ovens and things like that to cook food. Astronauts tend to have muscle problems on their return to Earth if they don't exercise and all the exercise equipment I've seen is secured, etc. There's also the obvious question of EVAs, windows, etc.

    Perhaps a non-airtight capsule someh
    • Re:Solid Surface (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iamlucky13 (795185)
      Astute questions, but ones which the engineers have already thought of.

      The Spacehab modules aren't quite as simple as they sound (otherwise they would have been included on the ISS). I believe they are to be built with mounting features included on the walls for things such as dividers and lockers. The trick is making sure these don't interfere with a smooth inflation. Additionally, the core of the module, which provides longitudinal rigidity and holds the inflating and related equipment will offer more
      • To expand a bit, I believe that they do have some sort of airlock available. I think they're located on the ends(it's sausage shaped, not ballon shaped). They also don't collapse completely, there's room to design the equipment to move into place as the module inflates, or even have an astronaught move it into place once inflation is complete. As long as it can fit through the lock, you can even bring it in later.

  • Inside the model there will be 1000 photocards and personal objects from Bigelow Aerospace employees all flooting inside the space station.
  • FTA: "If you log onto the Bigelow Aerospace Web portal, you will have a chance to actually see your item floating by!"

    I think that what they really mean is:

    "If you log onto the Bigelow Aerospace Web portal, you will have a chance to actually see a whole bunch of GoldenPalace.com merchandise floating by!"

    - RG>
  • The first thing I imagined was a bouncy castle. Those were the days.
  • This sort of stuff really interests me so I took a look at the site. There I saw the career page - "Cool", I thought, "This is the kind of stuff I'd work on for free!"

    But I can't - 'cos I'm not American. You'd have thought that these guys would have tapped into the FOSS workforce. Also, non-Americans can forget going after the $50 M prize.

    It rather puts the rhetoric on the home page into perspective. Ah, well. Back to ESA.
  • by IAN (30)

    The inflatable spacecraft idea has been floated (heh) in the 80s by a scientist at LLNL who previously came up with the idea of using gobs of small interceptors for strategic missile defense -- the concept known as Brilliant Pebbles. His rather aggressive promotion of inflatables attracted a lot of criticism, and someone called the scheme "Brilliant Condoms". With a moniker like that, it's no wonder that support and funds have been scarce.

    The idea has its merits, as mentioned elsewhere in the comments...

  • On news today:
    How didn't we see that an inflatable baloon would explode if something hit it?
    Did terrorists attack the US by using that baloon to try to kill the people on earth?
    How did Oussama ben laden get to space to blow that thing?

    Coming up next:
    Why did the pendant with Hitler's picture burned while going back into atmosphear, while the virgin mary pendant pierced and destroyed the international space station?
    We got nazis and religious men coming to comment on that after these messages...
  • I wonder if the model will look anything like this: Inflatable Church [inflatablechurch.com]

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

Working...