Big burst: Sierra Space tested the tensile strength of the inflatable module

Sierra Space has successfully conducted a burst test of a full-size prototype of the LIFE module (Large Integrated Flexible Environment). In the future, it is planned to be used to create a commercial Orbital Reef station.

The purpose of the test was to check the ultimate strength of the module and to study how its shell would behave. It is made of Vectran, a high-strength fiber, and other materials. 

During the test, the pressure inside the module gradually rose. When it reached the level of 530 kilopascals, its shell burst. 

According to Sierra Space, the test was a complete success. At the moment of bursting, the pressure inside the module was 530 kilopascals, which is about 5.3 times higher than the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere. This is +27% higher than the recommended NASA level of 419 kilopascals (the maximum operating pressure of 105 kilopascals multiplied by a safety factor of four).

The moment of bursting the shell of the prototype of the LIFE module. Source: Sierra Space

The last test was the crowning achievement in a series of smaller-scale tests. During one of these tests, conducted in September, a prototype module equipped with a metal blanking plate simulating a window reached a 33% safety margin. 

The LIFE module is designed to be placed inside the cargo compartment of a rocket with a five-meter head fairing. After full expansion in orbit, its internal volume will be 300 m3, which corresponds to about a third of the habitable volume of the ISS. Sierra Space is also exploring the possibility of creating a larger version of LIFE, designed to be installed under a seven-meter fairing. After expansion, its volume will be 1400 m3

Earlier, we told you that Sierra Space had completed the assembly of the first flight copy of the Dream Chases spaceplane. Its flight into orbit is scheduled for this spring.

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