June 10, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

Complete News World

Basic space inflation technique

Nitrogen was pumped into the craft just before it exited the Atlas V rocket, causing it to increase nearly fivefold and slow it down during descent.

It’s November 10, 2022, and NASA has the first spot I tried successfully With an inflatable heat shield, which can play a major role in future space missions.

Each mission is limited by the space at the front of the rocket. Space agencies have plans to explore the entire solar system, but the payload space on their rockets is currently too small to carry enough material — and people — without compromising safe conditions during landing.

An inflatable shield solves this problem, but heat shields aren’t the only thing flight agencies and airlines want to inflate.

Large inflatable containers must house humans if we are to colonize the Moon and Mars.

The missiles are very small

Inflatable space technology, like NASA’s new heat shield, aims to solve a problem the industry has long grappled with: space limitations in rockets.

Even the largest missiles cannot carry objects larger than 4.6 meters in diameter.

The International Space Station is the largest man-made object in space at 108 meters high, but building the station took more than 30 missions.

In principle, bases on the Moon and Mars could be built in the same way as the International Space Station, but even with a new generation of larger rockets that would be expensive and cumbersome.

That’s why engineers are working on 3D printing technology, among other things, so that we can print housing units from rocks that can be found on other planets. But then the complex printer technology needs to be brought in, so it’s a long-term plan.

Inflatable units are more efficient, simpler and more reliable because they are transported when folded.

An astronaut’s house unfolds in space

NASA’s groundbreaking test of LOFTID’s inflatable heat shield succeeds thanks to the shield’s design. It consists mainly of hollow cylinders of synthetic fibers 15 times stronger than steel.

The structure of the fibers is amplified with nitrogen, resulting in an almost five-fold increase in cortex volume.

The air blowing technology has already been tested on the International Space Station. The partially inflatable Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) has been attached to the station since 2016, providing astronauts on the International Space Station with an additional 16 cubic meters of space.

This inspired NASA, and Sierra Space was tasked with developing a larger inflatable space module, the Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE).

LIFE can be launched from existing missiles and inflated to a cylinder 8 meters in diameter and 8 meters in length. The unit can accommodate four to twelve astronauts and includes everything from sleeping quarters to an LED-lit herb garden.

LIFE is made of airtight urethane wrapped in synthetic, a light fabric five times stronger than steel. The flexible material becomes rock solid once inflated.

It is planned that astronauts will be able to transition to LIFE by the end of this decade.

Then the private space station Orbital Reef is launched, and the LIFE modules must go to that station.

Mars habitats are being blown up

Austrian architect Thomas Herzig has been involved with inflatable architecture throughout his career, working with the European Space Agency to design bases for the Moon and Mars.

The bases will be made of transparent plastic so that the inhabitants, especially the plants that produce oxygen and turn into food, can benefit from sunlight.

The surfaces of the units are covered with a layer of dust and gravel against radiation and meteorites.

So sunlight cannot come directly from above, but must be reflected in units from the side via large mirror diaphragms.

Herzig designed an inflatable unit of about 450 square metres, which can be built relatively quickly.

Before the explosion, everything is only a six-meter roll, which can be easily transported to Mars using existing rockets.

The heat shield ensures a soft landing

Designing “habitat” is one thing. But before astronauts can settle down on Mars, they need to get there in one piece.

And NASA’s flying saucer should help with that.

A spacecraft must travel at about 40,000 km/h to reach Mars, and slowing down after that is quite a challenge. But clouds in the Martian atmosphere help slow the craft.

The greater the spacecraft’s surface area in contact with the atmosphere, the greater the drag, and thus the deceleration. Therefore, large inflatable heat shields are ideal to achieve maximum airtightness and protect the payload from high temperatures during landing.

But Mars’ atmosphere is thin. So the heat shield would have to be large enough to slow a 20-ton capsule long enough to make it to the final descent with large parachutes.

NASA calculated that the heat shield would have to be about 20 meters in diameter for this. A space capsule could only accommodate such a large shield if it could be transported when folded.

After successful testing of the six-meter inflatable heat shield, NASA will now begin development of larger prototypes, while engineers, architects and scientists continue to develop inflatable spacecraft and habitats.

In this way, blowing air technology could give us extra room for space travel, a soft landing on Mars, and shelter on the surface.

For example, it suddenly became realistic that we could colonize the Red Planet in the coming decades.

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