Bigelow tests earthbound space station mockup

Bigelow Aerospace team
The team for the NASA-Bigelow Aerospace habitat test lines up in front of the Bigelow Mars Transporter Testing Unit at the company’s Nevada headquarters. (Bigelow Aerospace Photo)

Bigelow Aerospace opened up its ground-based prototype for a space station module — or perhaps even a Mars transport habitat — for inspection today at its headquarters in North Las Vegas.

The open house centered on the Mars Transporter Testing Unit, an all-steel mockup of the company’s expandable, fabric-covered B330 space module. For two weeks, a NASA-Bigelow team will be testing the suitability of the B330 concept for crewed deep-space missions.

Bigelow’s prototype is one of six ground-based demonstration projects funded as part of NASA’s NextSTEP-2 program. The other companies building full-sized NextSTEP-2 prototypes for space habitats include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Nanoracks.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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