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Constructing Next-Generation Space Habitat Demonstrators

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:32 am via: NASA
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A mockup of a habitat module inside Building 4649 at Marshall Space Flight Center.
Developing a Deep Space Habitat will allow a crew to live and work safely in space for up to a year on missions to explore cis-lunar space, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars.

The Habitation Systems Project is a multi-center team of NASA architects, scientists and engineers, working together to develop sustainable living quarters, workspaces, and laboratories for astronauts on next-generation space missions.

Concept for the design of the ISS-Derived Deep Space Habitat.

Concept for the design of the ISS-Derived Deep Space Habitat.

After successfully constructing and field testing the first deep space habitat concept demonstrator – the Habitat Demonstration Unit – the team is building on past success by constructing an ISS-derived Deep Space Habitat Concept Demonstrator. This Concept Demonstrator is being constructed with mockups of modules currently in use on the International Space Station-an ISS Laboratory-sized shell and a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM; flight units were used by the space shuttle to transport equipment to the space station). The Concept Demonstrator is being assembled and outfitted in Building 4649 at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The ISS-derived Deep Space Habitat concept demonstrator evaluation will focus on the following elements, from left to right, Lab/Hab, tunnel, and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).

The ISS-derived Deep Space Habitat concept demonstrator evaluation will focus on the following elements, from left to right, Lab/Hab, tunnel, and Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM).

A concept demonstrator entails outfitting mockup elements with operational systems to allow the evaluation of living and working in the habitat. Mockups are representative, full-size models built for evaluation.

For this evaluation, the notional concept of an ISS-derived Deep Space Habitat (DSH) includes the following elements:

an ISS Lab-sized element (ISS Lab/Hab) and a MPLM to provide pressurized volume for working and living space,
a Utility Tunnel including an airlock to traverse between elements and allow extravehicular activities, and
a Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) (or a similar small crewed vehicle for short exploration activities).
The full element stack of a Deep Space Habitat mission would also include the following elements which are not included in this demonstrator, since they are not critical to evaluating habitability.

an Orion spacecraft (which transports crews to the mission destination), and
a Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (a high thrust propulsive stage).
The objectives of the demonstration are to evaluate how the crew interacts with habitat systems and to test mission scenarios.

Operational Layout of Building 4649 at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Operational Layout of Building 4649 at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Approximate end-to-end dimensions of the elements under evaluation in this concept demonstrator (excluding the Cryogenic Propulsion Stage and Orion) are 56 feet long, with a diameter of 16 feet. There will also be remote, interactive testing between this ISS-derived concept demonstrator and systems in the current Habitat Demonstration Unit located at the Johnson Space Center, to maximize benefits of the testing process and reduce redundant development efforts.

Development of Deep Space Habitat technologies is funded by the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Program.

Hab Module mockup – first element to arrive in Building 4649.

Hab Module mockup – first element to arrive in Building 4649.

Multi Purpose Logistics Module mockup, prior to delivery to Building 4649.

Multi Purpose Logistics Module mockup, prior to delivery to Building 4649.

5 Comments
well that looks a lot less ambitious and inspiring than Nautilus-X, but at least they are working on _something_

All this PR talking about Orion/MPCV and SLS to enable missions into deep space, but until now there was no word about how to accommodate the crew for a long duration deep space mission.
PS: I find the idea to place the airlock in the tunnel that connects the two modules _really_ stupid. If anything is wrong with the airlock, the entire missions would be doomed I guess.
Airlocks are pretty simple devices. Just a set of hinged doors that seal with pressure and some valves.
Well yes... and at the same time no. An airlock is more than just a sealed door. You need all the equipment to vent and refill the atmosphere, that includes various sensors, actuators and of course computers. With electronics and software there can always go something wrong, especially in a deep space environment without the Earth's magnetic field shielding most of the radiation.

Also: as far as I know the airlock stays open while somebody is outside (at least that's how I have seen it on ISS and Shuttle EVAs), so the rest of the crew can't access parts of the ship during an EVA even if everything goes as planned? Very bad idea.

If the Airlock is attached to the tunnel, then OK, but from the (poor) images and the description it appears like the tunnel IS the airlock. And that would be just stupid imho.
I'm sure it will get electronic bells and whistles, but "airlocks" have been built for a century with nothing more than hand valves and steam gauges. You would hope that they will give it a manual backup mode.

This configuration saves weight because the tunnel is the right size for an airlock and you can reuse the end pressure hatches as the interior airlock doors. Yeah it has the drawbacks you mention, but where else are you going to put it if you don't have the mass for an airlock module?
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