In the late 90s, NASA conceived, designed, stayed and approached the final construction of an impressive inflatable space module dubbed the TransHab.
Although it never really got off the ground, the program was also an inspiration to Russian engineers. Who knows why they decided to start their own research on things like this inflatable structure. But this is another post.
How the idea of creating an inflatable structure in space was born
TransHab was conceived around the 1992 at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston as a possible home for a spacecraft headed to Mars.
The inflatable space environment would make a test ride on the Space Shuttle bound for International Space Station, ISS.
In its folded position, TransHab has been sized to completely cover the full width of the Shuttle cargo bay. Eventually, it filled about two-thirds of its length.
After the first phase, the TransHab program was officially launched in 1997. The goal was to replace the traditional housing module on the US segment of the International Space Station, and to test the inflatable technology in the process.
How was it done?
In the TransHab concept, a rigid-body cylindrical core made of carbon fiber composite would serve as the backbone for the surrounding multilayer inflatable structure.
On the outside, nearly two dozen expandable flexible layers would have formed walls nearly 30 centimeters thick.
Why was the project aborted?
During the project, the NASA conducted extensive research and development work, including building a full-scale prototype of the inflatable module.
More: it went even further with structural, thermal and vacuum tests performed in 1998. It also obtained evidence of the inflatable structure's ability to withstand meteor strikes.
You would have said that hooking up an inflatable boat in space would have been madness, right?
Yet the US Congress ended the TransHab project in 2000 due to financial and political problems. Not sure how it works.