Space Technology

How an Inflatable Habitat Will Sustain Life in Space

Image source: Sierra Nevada Corporation

Overview Space technologies company and CES® 2022 exhibitor Sierra Nevada Corporation designed its inflatable LIFE habitat to sustain life in outer space for long-duration missions to low-Earth orbit, the moon, Mars and beyond.

Astronauts may someday soon be orbiting the moon or staying on the surface of Mars in a multi-floor inflatable habitat.

Space technologies company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) — set to be a CES® 2022 exhibitor — has designed a new space habitat meant for long-duration stays in space.

The Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) habitat is under Phase 3 of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program, and a ground prototype is being used to evaluate how crew members could perform mission tasks in outer space.


What LIFE Is Made Of

Aesthetically reminiscent of a large paper lantern, the three-story tall, 27-feet wide LIFE habitat is made of several soft goods layers:

  • Vectran fabric weave called the restraint layer makes up the outermost layer. The fabric weave is strong enough to withstand the internal pressure necessary for a crew to live inside the habitat.

  • Urethane makes up the inner layer — the bladder — and is designed to keep the air inside the habitat.

  • Nylon fabric creates the middle liner, protecting the bladder from being damaged.

The LIFE habitat is meant to travel into space furled inside commercial launch vehicles and will then inflate on-orbit to its full size to house four astronauts and their equipment.

The three stories of space includes science labs, robotics work stations, medical and sick bays, sleep and hygiene quarters, exercise equipment, a plant growth system, and more.


Making the Most of LIFE

SNC’s Astro Garden system aboard the LIFE habitats is developed to grow fresh food including tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and more to help sustain life in space for long periods of time. The advanced plant growth system helps grow much larger volumes of produce while saving space, weight and power.

A waste management system will compact trash into bricks that can be used for additional radiation protection on the LIFE habitat.

Beyond food production, SNC foresees that its space station, made of a configuration of multiple LIFE habitats and the SNC Dream Chaser spaceplane, can serve many industries and use cases, such as

  • In-space manufacturing, such as 3D printing.

  • Pharmaceutical and medical research.

  • Movie production.

  • Space tourism.

“Our LIFE habitat offers unique capabilities for both lunar and Mars applications, making it the best, most versatile option for taking crews on long-duration missions,” said SNC Space Systems Group Senior Vice President of Programs Janet Kavandi, a former NASA astronaut.

The LIFE habitat’s unique design can open new opportunities in space exploration and reimagine outer space living conditions.

Interested in exhibiting at CES 2022 alongside Sierra Nevada Corporation? Contact the CES sales team to learn more about opportunities, including private meeting space.

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