Colorado company builds ‘space habitat’ prototype for NASA

LOUISVILLE, Colo. -- A Colorado company has created a prototype that may be a part of NASA missions in the future. Louisville-based Sierra Nevada Corporation's spacecraft was shown to the press Tuesday.

It is a prototype for NASA's moon-orbiting Gateway concept.

"As NASA prepares to return to the Moon and travel to Mars, the Gateway is envisioned in lunar orbit as a stepping stone for lunar and deep space exploration," Sierra Nevada said in a press release.

The 27-foot-wide prototype features sleeping spaces, work stations, a vegetable garden and exercise equipment.

“It’s designed to support human missions and orbit around the moon, but we also had to design it to support an 1,100 day-mission, say, if we are going to transport a crew to Mars and back," Sierra Nevada vice president Steve Lindsey said.

The company is hoping its unique design catches NASA's eye. What sets it apart is that once the enclosure is in space, it inflates.

“If we wanted this amount of space for the crew for stowage and science and everything, and it was hard walled, it wouldn’t fit on a rocket. So by going inflatable, you start deflated to a much smaller size that can be packaged into the faring of a standard rocket," Lindsey said.

Once in space and inflated, the soft-sided spacecraft can accommodate a four-astronaut crew.

“When I first heard that idea, I thought they were crazy. But as it turns out, it’s very strong," Lindsey said.

NASA says it will make a decision in 2020 and hopes to be back on the moon again in 2024.

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