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NASA To Connect Inflatable Room To International Space Station

Eventually, the inflatable capsules could provide a solution for housing in deep space travel — or even on Mars.

NASA's next supply mission to the International Space Station will carry some unconventional cargo aboard the SpaceX Dragon.

The April launch is set to include an 8-foot-long bundle developed by Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace.

After two months, NASA plans for the ISS crew to attach the bundle's robotic arm to the station and inflate it with air. If successful, the station will effectively gain an inflatable home addition.

Crew members won’t initially live aboard the Bigelow craft — which expands to about 13 feet in length — but will work within it every few months for a few hours at a time.

Officials say that despite the “inflatable” label, the capsule will feel much more stable than a balloon or children's party accessory. The structure includes an internal metal frame and layers of fabric and Kevlar to protect against radiation and debris.

The capsule will stay attached to the ISS for two years before detaching and burning up in the atmosphere.

Ultimately, however, NASA and Bigelow hope to enable space travelers to live in inflatable homes for extended periods of time.

The capsules are much lighter than conventional space structures and Bigelow's uninhabited prototypes are still in orbit nearly a decade after their launch.

The company is also developing a larger capsule capable of housing six people.

Eventually, the capsules could provide a solution for housing in deep space travel — or even on Mars.

"Success in BEAM will go a long way in proving the feasibility of expandable habitats for deep space missions," Rajib Dasgupta, NASA's project manager, told reporters this week.

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