Dec 12, 2012

11 Unique Space Inflatables

Inflatables are an obvious choice for space vehicles and satellites, a small sized payload than can be inflated once up, yet for some reason they aren’t the norm.

The first passive communications satellites were inflatable spheres, such as the Echo series, which mylar was developed for, and early prototypes for space stations were inflatable. More recently, funding for the inflatable replacement for the habitat unit on the space station was cancelled and a private company Bigelow Aerospace is now the pioneer in the field, having successfully launched an inflatable unit. (David Galbraith)


1. Aluminum geodesic mesh in inflatable disolving plastic sphere satellite


The Mylar Echo satellites didn't stay up long, becuase the suns heat would deform them and slow them down. The answer was this system where a helium inflated plastic sphere would expand a signal reflecting hollow mesh, with the plastic dissolving under the suns rays. The mesh could then stay up for 11 years or so. (via)


2. 135 ft diameter Inflatable Echo 2 communications satellite


NASA developed mylar for the Echo program. These were inflatable passive communication satellites, i.e. signals were bounced off them to reach places on the other side of the earth. (via)


3. Mockups of future Bigelow Aerospace inflatable habitats


After the successful launch of the Genesis 1, Bigelow hope to be pioneers of large scale inflatable habitats, in space. (via)


4. 1990s Transhab inflatable replacement for current space station habitation module


Shown here, Transhab prototype at Johnson Space Center (via)


5. Protective air bags for the Mars Pathfinder Rover landing



6. 2006 Geneseis 1, Bigelow Aerospace inflatable habitat demonstration


After NASAs inflatable habitat funding was cancelled a private firm, Bigelow Aerospace launched the first inflatable habitat prototype, aboard a converted missile, in 2006. Genesis 1 is 14ft by 8ft. (via)


7. The IRVE hypersonic Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment


IRVE-3 shown here. Click through for more details. (via)


8. 1960s inflatable Re-Entry Glider


This was designed to be an escape pod attached to the side of a space station, which would inflate to create a glider, on re-entry. (via)


9. NASA Planetary Surface Habitat and Airlock Unit (Inflatable Moonbase)



10. 1961 Nasa prototype of an inflatable solar collecting space station



11. Von Braun Inflatable Nylon Space Station Concept


Von Braun's involvement in the US space race was highly controversial, having been the developer of the Nazi rocket program. (via)


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