NASA is testing a new inflatable balloon-style spacecraft designed to give astronauts more space on board the Space Station. Plans to use the technology to one day build a space hotel and moon base have also been revealed.
The inflatable module has been designed by Las Vegas based company Bigelow Aerospace, which was awarded £11 million to develop the inflatable room. The module will be compressed into a 7ft tube for delivery and then inflated once it has reached the Space Station.
Once the inflatable module, known as BEAM, which stands for Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, has reached the Space station, astronauts on-board will test its durability and ability to withstand heat, radiation, and debris. It is also hoped that the module can be used as an extra bedroom, giving astronauts the chance to sleep in a private area for the first time.
If the project is successful, the technology could be used to build the world's first space hotel. A trip to space will not come cheap though, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow, has said that a 60 day stay would cost £15.6 million and guests would have to pay an additional £17 million to travel there and back, over £32 million in total.
Mr Bigelow is also planning to sell stand-alone space homes next year and has predicted that his main customers would be astronauts from countries having “a difficult time getting their astronauts into orbit” such as Brazil, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is due to arrive at the Space Station in 2015, where it will be tested by astronauts to make sure it can withstand space.