Sierra Space is building a modular space station and the full-scale version of it just passed a significant testing milestone. But it didn’t blow up in the process so the company, just like anyone else who likes explosions, went back and retested to make sure the habitat blew up real good this time.
The LIFE Habitat, which stands for Large Integrated Flexible Environment, is constructed from woven materials that stay rigid once the environment is inflated. The company has worked its way up to testing full-scale, 20-foot units now and its latest version exceeded NASA’s recommended safety levels by 27%.
However, due to a leak in the test article, the pressure during the most recent test didn’t reach a level capable of bursting the habitat. The Sierra Space team was clearly disappointed but they found and fixed a valve leak before a second attempt at the burst test. And this time, kablooey.
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Sierra Space is positioning the LIFE Habitat as an economical means for establishing low-earth orbit operations like microgravity research and product development.
The company packs LIFE into a five-meter rocket fairing and, when it reaches orbit, it inflates it to the size of a three-story apartment building. LIFE units can attach to create a living and working environment in space that Sierra Space said is larger, in terms of volume, than the entire International Space Station.
But Sierra Space isn’t done yet. In the next few years, it said it will work on larger designs like a potential 1400-cubic-meter version that could be put in orbit with a single launch.