Revolutionary Inflatable Space Station Design Provides "More Volume, Less Cost"

Space may be infinite, but it has the same problem we do on Earth: Not enough housing. Builders of space habitats are constrained by shipping capacity. While rocket launches have become cheaper and more frequent, there are only so many building materials you can cram into the payload. “For example, the ISS took more than 40 flights,” writes Max Space, “and cost more than $100 billion to build. Max Space can provide the equivalent cubic volume of the ISS in space for $200 million—including launch—bringing the cost down by over a hundred-fold.”

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Company founder Maxim de Jong, a pioneer of “soft system space architecture,” is the world’s premier expert on using expandable materials in space. (Two experimental expanding-material spacecraft of his design, Genesis I and Genesis II, have been orbiting the planet since 2006 and 2007.) Here’s how his latest design, the Max Space 20, would deploy:

Here are some shots of the full-scale ground prototype:

“Max Space expandables use an entirely unique design approach and philosophy. Our expandables incorporate ‘isotensoid’ architecture whereby every structural fiber element remains unencumbered and free to assume an ideal geometry for optimum load-bearing capability. The benefits of the Max Space design are enormous ranging from lowest possible mass and cost to unsurpassed predictability and unlimited scalability. Despite the conceptual simplicity of the Max Space design, the challenges of its practical implementation were overcome by the lifelong relentlessness of founder Maxim de Jong’s design acumen.”

As for weathering impacts from space debris, the company says their material is “safer and stronger than traditional hard modules. This is largely due to the architecture composed of a multi-layered system of fiber-based ballistic shielding of much greater resilience than aluminum and titanium.”

The Max Space 20 is so named because it provides 20 cubic meters (706 cubic feet) of interior space. That’s a far cry from the ISS’ habitable volume of 388 cubic meters (13,696 cubic feet), but the company can’t pass the battery of required testing hurdles all in one go; so the plan is to launch the 20 unit in 2026, followed in the next four years by the Max Space 100 and Max Space 1000, the latter of which will properly dwarf the ISS.

“More volume, less cost” is the company’s motto. Here’s their pitch:

Source: core77

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