Space startup Sierra Space made a prototype inflatable space station module explode to see how much resilience it will have once it starts orbiting the Earth, Space.com reports.
The “ultimate burst pressure test” (UBP) occurred last month and led to an early, scaled-down prototype of the Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE), a segment of Blue Origin’s planned Orbital Reef private space station, loudly exploding, as seen in a video.
Blue Origin revealed its objectives for the huge and highly ambitious commercial space station last year, with a very ideal timeline that demanded action from 2030.
The Orbital Reef is a joint project of Blue Origin and Sierra Space. The aim is to replace the rapidly declining International Space Station.
Last year NASA awarded a total of $415 million to three competing private space station concepts, with the Orbital Reef team receiving $130 million.
Early renders display a petite structure orbiting the Earth, comprising many roomy segments. According to the company’s plans, it’s designed to have up to ten people. It will also have spacecraft and modules dock at multiple ports.
Sierra Space’s inflatable prototype segment is currently being developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. One day, the companies want to create a “three-story commercial habitation and science platform designed for low-Earth orbit (LEO) that will allow humans to live and work comfortably in space,” according to a statement.
The latest test of the structure took place after the first test in July. It demonstrated that the segment was able to withstand pressures of up to 204 psi, which is well above the safety requirement of just 182 psi, according to the company.
“This second successful UBP test proves we can demonstrate design, manufacturing, and assembly repeatability, all of which are key areas for certification,” said Shawn Buckley, LIFE chief engineer at Sierra Space, in the statement.
The company is also creating a cargo spaceplane to supply the Orbital Reef station called Dream Chaser. Points for having such a fitting name!