Lockheed Martin conducted another subscale burst test on an inflatable space habitat at its testing site in Colorado, USA last month.
Performed on an historic Titan rocket hot-fire test stand, the test achieved validation by getting to 253 psi, nearly six times the max operating pressure, hitting the prediction and showing consistency in how the technology performs and repeatability of the first test findings.
Lockheed Martin manufactured the softgoods portion of the inflatable habitat was built on campus in only eight weeks.
“These burst tests are crucial as they help ensure this technology is reliable and can operate effectively in the harsh environment of space,” said Jonathan Markcity, Senior Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin. “Testing at the system level is one of the best methods to prove out our design and manufacturing techniques, while providing thousands of critical data points for improvements and updates as we develop the technology.”
The latest test follows a successful inflatable habitat burst test in December 2022 and although the performance results being similar to the last test, there was a surprising difference.
Unlike last time, the test stand that supports the habitat broke loose from its concrete attachment and was propelled into the air, demonstrating just how much energy this inflatable structure is able to contain, and why the test was safely conducted away from people at a rocket test stand.
Engineers at Lockheed Martin will next perform subscale system level creep testing – or life deformation testing – to validate the habitat’s operational life capability. Future testing will also include full-scale burst tests to validate the scaling up of manufacturing techniques.
The high margins demonstrated also allow the team to move forward with penetration development, or the incorporation of windows, hatches, and other hardpoints, into the softgoods structure.
With this inflatable soft goods technology, Lockheed Martin aims to show the potential for habitation applications on the Moon, Mars and beyond.