Bigelow Aerospace has designed the BA-330, an inflatable space habitat that can be used in the future by governments, corporations, and private citizens to create research stations or space hotels.
The BA-330’s soft shell allows it to fit inside a small launch vehicle and be inflated in space. The soft shell is also better at reflecting debris and absorbing radiation than the International Space Station.
The BA-330 can be compressed to a diameter of 12 feet to be transported to space. The inflatable habitat measures 45 feet long and 22 feet in diameter and has an interior volume of 330 cubic meters when inflated. Bigelow has created a full-scale model and plans to create two real versions by 2017.
Three or four modules could be linked to create a space bigger than the International Space Station. While it took over 20 launches to construct the ISS, the BA-330 could be assembled in four or five trips.
The interior of the model was designed by Boeing and includes hypothetical research equipment. In reality, the module could be customized to fit the needs of whatever company or agency intends to use it. The center of the habitat forms the solid part of the BA-330 and contains the life support and computer equipment, unlike the ISS, which has equipment along the walls.
White bags inside the inflatable habitat will store drinking water and waste water, and brown bags will be used to store food, clothing, and medical supplies. Putting more mass between the inside of the habitat and the outside environment will help to protect the occupants from radiation.
The habitat is designed to accommodate six people. It will have separate sleeping quarters for each occupant.
In space, moisture is released into the air through sweat and breathing. An air conditioning system condenses it and converts it into drinking water. A hydrolyzer separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is pumped into the cabin, while hydrogen is used to fuel the inflatable habitat’s propulsion system.
Bigelow is also working on a smaller habitat, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), that will dock with the ISS in 2015 to conduct manned testing.