An artist’s conception of the inflated BEAM module (balloon structure at top center) berthed to the Tranquility node of ISS. (NASA)
Today, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, it will be boosting the rough equivalent of an inflatable bouncy house to space – a type of inhabitable module that could ultimately be used to construct a space hotel or habitat.
And really, what could be better than a bouncy house in space? It’s like the ultimate Airbnb.
Ok, fine. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module isn’t exactly like the inflatable castles you can temporarily park in your yard, but it’s pretty darn close, conceptually. Designed to expand after unpacking, the module, when inflated, will resemble a hollow, crinkled marshmallow with rounded edges.
And inside, where someone could theoretically live, it’ll actually be rather spacious. The 3,000-pound prototype launching today is smaller than the envisioned double-decker version of the future, but it’s still bigger than some San Francisco living spaces. When packed, BEAM measures just 7 feet long by 7 feet wide – somewhat shorter than a Smart car, but a little bit taller – and after being pumped full of air from the International Space Station, ...