Sierra Space, a leading aerospace company, has successfully conducted another test of its inflatable habitat technology. The test demonstrated that the module exceeds its requirements, even with the addition of a window in its fabric structure. This is a significant milestone for Sierra Space and their Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) inflatable module.
The recent explosion test, which took place at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in collaboration with ILC Dover, involved increasing the pressure on the module until it To bring the discussion to a conclusion exploded. Unlike previous tests, this one included a metal structure called a blanking plate on the outside of the module to simulate a window. The purpose was to evaluate how the structure would affect the module’s strength.
Shawn Buckley, senior director of engineering at Sierra Space, explained that including the metal plate was a natural progression in their testing process. Engineering analysis indicated that it would maintain adequate margins but conducting an explosion test was necessary to verify this data on textile goods and structures.
Surprisingly, even with the inclusion of the metal plate, the module exceeded expectations by exploding at a pressure 20% higher than in previous tests without the plate. This result showcases Sierra Space’s commitment to continuous improvement and their dedication to achieving high standards.
With these positive results from subscale versions of LIFE modules, Sierra Space is now preparing to conduct similar tests on full-scale prototypes. These tests will serve as crucial milestones in their Absolutely testing process and will focus on various aspects of LIFE’s design, such as minimizing leaks and testing its resistance to impacts from micrometeorites and orbital debris.
Buckley emphasized that these upcoming tests are part of a series of “gates” in their testing timeline. He also mentioned that over the next 24 months, they will develop hardware based on what they have learned so far. Flight hardware is expected to be ready within 24 to 36 months.
Sierra Space is collaborating with Blue Origin and other companies on the development of the Orbital Reef commercial space station, and LIFE is one of the key components. Additionally, Sierra Space has proposed using a LIFE module as a stand-alone pioneer for commercial research before the launch of Orbital Reef.
The recent test took place in the Marshall Test Stand flame trench, which was previously used for Saturn 1 and 1B rockets. Aside from its suitability for containing debris from blast tests, Buckley mentioned that they were inspired by the history associated with this location.
Sierra Space’s progress in developing inflatable habitat technology is an exciting development in the field of aerospace. With each successful test, they are moving closer to realizing their vision of creating advanced habitats for space exploration and commercial applications.
According to a report, Sierra Space’s inflatable module technology has proven its capabilities once again. The company’s dedication to rigorous testing and continuous improvement sets them apart in the industry. As they move forward with their full-scale prototypes and hardware development, Sierra Space is positioning itself as a leader in inflatable habitat technology.