Sierra Space is an American aerospace company hoping to revolutionize the human experience in space soon. On Monday (Jan. 22), the company announced that it exploded its first full-scale space station module prototype during a burst test for future space missions to low Earth orbit in 2030.
In an official email statement to Space.com, the company’s executive confirmed that the explosion can be compared to using about 164 sticks of dynamite. This comparison shows the powerful nature of the blast. Sierra Space has focused on sending space facilities to higher altitudes to conduct a series of explosive tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Center in Alabama.
However, this entire past testing was executed based on the company’s scale models. But the recent burst test was truly one of a kind.
What You Should Know About Sierra Space’s Inflatable Technology
Sierra Space has been working on inflatable modules to advance human exploration in low Earth orbit. The company revealed that the dimensions of its modules are about the size of an average family home. This implies that the size of this balloon would be about 2,299 square feet or 213.5 square meters, according to U.S. Census 2022 numbers.
Sierra Space representative built the module to be as tall as three story building (20.5 feet, or 6.2 meters) tall. It also has a diameter of 27 feet or 8.3 meters. The company’s Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) habitat prototype has passed through several burst tests.
Sierra Space engineers execute these tests by purposely pumping air into the structure until it reaches its maximum expansion limit before the blast.
The success of the recent Burst Test
During the recent testing, the company exceeded NASA’s safety requirements by 27 percent. This implies that the inflatable structure was able to stand a pressure of 77 pounds per square inch (psi) before exploding. NASA’s standard is above 60.8 psi agency guidance.
“We are driving the reinvention of the space station that will shape a new era of humanity’s exploration, and discovery,” Tom Vice, Sierra Space CEO, said in the statement.
Vice also revealed the cost value of an inflatable module. He said that the structure can crunch into a five-meter (60-foot) rocket. This implies that the company can save package space while using a lightweight structure to launch payloads or humans into orbit.
Theoretically, LIFE could launch three of these modules to beat the equivalent size of the International Space Station. Sierra Space also revealed that bigger versions of these structures are forthcoming as well. One of these bigger versions will come with a 50,000 cubic-foot (1,400 cubic-meter) design.
This could potentially surpass the ISS’s capacity on a single launch to space. For now, Sierra Space wants to continue its burst test using full-scale and scare modules. The company also hopes to test how the structure will stand against micrometeorites in space.
Sierra Space is hoping that its technology could be ready to replace the ISS in the next six years. Aside from Sierra Space, these other companies are also developing space stations to replace the ISS in orbit after its retirement in the 2030s.