Model and Full-Scale Testing of Outfitting Approaches for Inflatable Habitats



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51st International Conference on Environmental Systems


Inflatable habitats feature prominently in many future space program concepts, but generally there is little focus on how the system transitions from its newly inflated configuration to a fully operational system. The nearest flight analog was the Skylab �wet workshop� concept in the early 1970�s, which was rejected due to the length of time required to outfit an empty volume into a functional habitat. Under support from the NASA Moon to Mars X-Hab program, the University of Maryland has initiated an experimental study of outfitting inflatable habitats to an operational configuration. To keep the study manageable, the team adopted the basic Transhab configuration developed at NASA JSC. The pressure envelope would launch packaged around a central 3m diameter core, which takes all launch loads and contains all necessary systems and components. The envelope would inflate to an 8m diameter, and then be outfitted by moving selected components into the newly inflated volume. Potential agents include both human crew and robotic systems. While the systems were modeled in CAD, it was decided that the large number of potential operations and movement trajectories would be prohibitively difficult to evaluate using only computer graphics. For that reason, an approach was developed which used CAD, a 1/12 scale physical model, and full-scale segments of the habitat for evaluation purposes. The CAD model was used to derive the basic configuration of the central core, and to define major components such as crew compartments, movable and fixed equipment, and utilities including air handling, power, and data. Initial testing was done at 1/12 scale, including human and robotic figures, to consider strategies and test cases. Final testing was done with both humans and robots in the laboratory, and in neutral buoyancy to provide a microgravity environment. Results to date are presented, along with future plans.


Nicolas Bolatto, University of Maryland, US
Colby Merrill, University of Maryland, US
Ronak Chawla, University of Maryland, US
Olivia Naylor, University of Maryland, US
Elizabeth Myers, University of Maryland, US
David Akin, University of Maryland, US
ICES502: Space Architecture
The 51st International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Saint Paul, Minnesota, US, on 10 July 2022 through 14 July 2022.


inflatable habitats, on-orbit outfitting, habitat design, habitability testing