NASA: Inflatable rooms may find a home on International Space Station

NASA to detail new $17.8 million contract with Bigelow and use of its inflatable space components

NASA today said a recently awarded $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace could bring the company's inflatable space station components to the International Space Station.

The idea of using inflatable components to expand the ISS is not a new one, thought the idea in the past has not been brought to fruition.   NASA has in the past said it was evaluating Bigelow's concept for an expandable module for the International Space Station. If utilized, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, could be launched to the station using a commercial cargo flight and robotically attached to the orbiting laboratory.  Bigelow also has partnered with the Boeing on a crew capsule for its space capsule.

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Exactly how the module would be used by the ISS is unclear.  It could be for storage, crew living quarters or as a lab to see just how such inflatable modules survive long-term spaceflight. 

"The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long periods," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation."

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