Max Space announces plans for inflatable space station modules | Space

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COLORADO SPRINGS — A startup has unveiled plans to develop inflatable modules that the company believes can be made larger and less expensive than alternatives, supporting commercial space stations and other applications.

Max Space is developing a series of expandable modules, the first of which is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX rideshare mission in 2025. That Max Space 20 module, compacted into a volume of two cubic meters for launch, will expand to 20 cubic meters after deployment, making it the largest expandable module flown to date.

Aaron Kemmer, co-founder and chief executive of Max Space, said in an interview that his interest in expandable modules stemmed from his experience at space manufacturing company Made In Space, which produced 3-D printers used on the International Space Station.

“What we always ran into when trying to do something meaningful was a volume bottleneck,” he said, citing an example of cramming a system to produce high-quality optical fiber that, on Earth, would span three stories into a standard ISS locker. “The hardest part wasn’t getting it to work in space. The hardest part was actually getting it to work in a limited volume.”

The concept of expandable modules is not new. The technology was central to the plans of the former Bigelow Aerospace, which launched the Genesis 1 and 2 spacecraft and built the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) currently on the ISS. More recently, companies such as Lockheed Martin and Sierra Space have tested on the ground, but not yet flown, inflatable modules.

Max Space is taking a different technical approach to earlier systems that used a bi-directional “basket weave” fabric structure. “When you start making fibers go in two different directions, 90 degrees apart, the result is you don’t know how much load is going in one direction or the other,” said Maxim de Jong, co-founder and chief technology officer of Max Space, whose past work included…

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