When the word “inflatable” comes to mind, I doubt I’m alone in immediately thinking about toys and devices that allow you to float while in water. NASA’s latest contract with Bigelow Aerospace has me rethinking that assessment.
The government space agency has awarded Bigelow Aerospace a $17.8 million contract to build an inflatable extension to the International Space Station. The contract is just one of many that NASA has made over the last few years, and these are helping create a vibrant commercial space industry.
Bigelow has dozens of space-faring inflatable prototypes already orbiting the planet, and it has previously signed contracts with SpaceX to transport its gear beyond the atmosphere.
“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,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver in a statement.
NASA is planning to release more details about the inflatable space station expansion at a press conference Wednesday. Until then, check out Bigelow’s BA330 below to get an idea of what an inflatable space habitat looks like.