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BEHIND THE SCENES | ENTREPRENEURS WHO MAKE GREAT THINGS HAPPEN

Innovation: Inside the Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace won an $18 million contract with NASA to add a 13-foot-long, 10-foot-diameter module to the International Space Station. Roll over the numbers below to take a closer look.

Magazine - April 2014 - Innovation

COOL NEW DIGS

In 1987, Robert Bigelow founded Budget Suites of America to give price-conscious travelers a place to stay. His latest venture, Bigelow Aerospace, aims to do the same for people visiting space. The Las Vegas company, founded in 1999, makes a module that can be compressed for transport and expanded in space. Made from Vectran, a manufactured fiber spun from poly- mer, the habitat is cheaper to deploy than rigid metal structures. In January, Bigelow landed an $18 million contract with NASA to add a 13-foot-long, 10-foot-diameter module to the International Space Station for a two- year test starting in 2015. A linked group of Bigelow’s larger modules, such as the BA 330 shown here, could one day replace the space station.

PLUG AND PLAY

When expanded, the BA 330 measures 45 feet long and 25 feet in diameter. The habitat can accommodate up to six people, who move about using grab bars.

GREEN MACHINE

The habitat has three exterior panels: one radiator panel that releases heat to cool the interior and two that generate solar power for the craft.

PRIVACY, PLEASE

Soft, movable cloth walls allow astronauts to section off portions of the habitat. The toilet is in the white box on the right-hand side of the wall.

ROOM WITH A VIEW

The module includes four windows made of bulletproof glass to fend off space rocks and other debris. The window shown here is equipped with a telescope.

ANYONE HUNGRY?

The kitchen area is fitted with basic equipment for heating ready-to-eat meals and preparing standard dishes. A laboratory area can be used for growing plants and conducting experiments.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

The habitat’s core contains solar energy–charged lithium batteries that power lights and computer displays. A life-support system pumps oxygen into the cabin and filters water and air.

A GENTLE NUDGE

Fore and aft propulsion engines propel the vessel short distances to keep it in orbit.

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IMAGE: Illustration by Peter Crowther
Last updated: Apr 1, 2013




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