Success? Inflatable Space Station Pops When Tested

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Success? Inflatable Space Station Pops When Tested

INFLATABLE SPACE STATION POPS DURING TEST, BUT ON-EARTH EXPLOSION WAS A TOTAL SUCCESS?

Space programs and space exploration often leaves lay people like me somewhat confused.  And people like me are geeks, nerds, and science-based dreamers.  Yet somewhat confused is a regular state of affairs, and things like this could be the reason why.  The aerospace company Sierra Space has been working on developing inflatable space modules.  And yes, that means potentially that humans could soon (in whatever yearly metric you think of as soon) be living, working and exploring in inflatable space stations.  But even a geeks imagination is hard-pressed to appreciate the nuances of what success means when an inflatable space station pops when tested.

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But even as I write that I am hounded by terms like “redundancy” and.. well, I guess redundancy.  Yet this idea still makes me somewhat nervous for future astronauts and potential LaGrange residents.  And the idea?  To pack a space station into a VERY small space, launch it into orbit on a rocket, and then literally inflate it just like your new king size mattress that arrived on your doorstep in a veritably small box.  Except instead of a sleeping surface, we’re talking about an inflatable space station.  But this is exactly what Sierra Space is working on.  And despite the fact that their test just popped, the test was labeled a success.

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And I kind of get it, though the geek in me remains instinctually confused.  I’m working hard to remind myself of all the tests missiles and rockets have, all of them exploding at some point, that their developers considered to be a success.  Eventually.  And in terms of people being brave enough to spend any time at all in an inflatable space station in orbit around the Earth, I then force myself to remember that they sat on top of an insanely large incendiary device just to get to it.  So what does success mean here?  It means that the “module” popped at a pressure of 77 pounds per square inch, which was 27% higher than NASA’s goal/bar of 60.8 psi.

But let’s keep it real!  Soon human beings will be living and working in space, in inflatable space stations. 

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