Out of This World
Cool new digs
for the space station
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 polymer, 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.
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.
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.