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NASA's TransHab inflatable module
At the end of the 1990s, NASA come close to building an impressive inflatable module dubbed TransHab. Although it never got off the ground, the program was one of the inspirations for Russian engineers to initiate their own research into inflatable space structures.
Conceived around 1992, at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston as the living quarters of a Mars-bound spacecraft, the Transhab would first make a test ride on the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station, ISS. In its folded position, TransHab was sized to completely span the full width of the Shuttle's cargo bay and fill around two thirds of its length.
Officially initiated in 1997, the TransHab program aimed to replace the traditional habitation module on the US segment of the station and test inflatable technology in the process.
In the TransHab concept, a hard-body cylindrical core made of carbon-fiber composite would serve as the backbone for the surrounding multi-layer inflatable structure. On the outside, nearly two dozen flexible expandable layers would form walls almost a feet thick.
In the course of the project, NASA conducted extensive research and development work, including building a full-scale prototype of the inflatable module and conducting structural, thermal and vacuum testing in 1998, as well as trials of the ability of the soft structure to withstand meteoroid strikes.
Unfortunately, due to financial and political problems, the US Congress killed the maverick project in 2000.
Technical specifications of the Transhab module:
Read (and see) much more about this and many other space projects in Russia
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: August 10, 2016
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: August 10, 2016
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The folded TransHab module inside the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle. Credit: NASA
Planned position of the TransHab module on the ISS. Credit: NASA
A full-scale prototype of the TransHab module during folding tests in a vacuum chamber. Credit: NASA