NASA is developing full-size ground prototypes of habitats, so that people can live outside Earth. The US space agency has chosen six deep space habitat projects for NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP).
Jason Crusan, Director of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters said “The NextSTEP partnerships are a large contribution to the dual objectives of advancing deep space habitation development and stimulating commercial activities in low-Earth orbit”
Prototype for Modular habitat system will be developed by Houston based aerospace company that is Boeing. It will provide design analysis and high-fidelity demonstration and test capability to simulate how humans can safely live and work in deep space for extended periods of time.
Lockheed Martin’s project will be based on the loading modules that used to ferry cargo between the ISS and space shuttle. The high-fidelity ECLSS prototype will provide risk reduction and form and fit testing
Orbital ATK is working on a separate project to make launch vehicles habitable for longer terms in deep space based on Cygnus spacecraft that will establish a proposed roadmap that leads to Mars exploration.
Sierra Nevada Corporation is working on a space habitat that will include a durable fabric house by combining space shuttle-like Dream Chaser Vehicle with the inflatable component.
The fifth company is Texas- based NanoRacks will check the feasibility by acknowledging weather launch vehicle’s upper stage into an environment fit to live.
There’s also the XBASE (Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement) prototype from Bigelow Aerospace. It’s based on the space house currently attached to the 330 cubic metre ISS, BEAM, to know whether it can survive the climate beyond earth which the company also built. This one, however, will be built for the conditions of deep space which means that it could go much further.
NextSTEP is managed by the Advanced Exploration Systems Division (AES) in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate that is building prototypes to send humans outside our planet.