The space agency’s NextSTEP-2 program, which has a budget of around $65 million, aims to both advance the commercial development of space while also allowing for the further exploration of deep space.
The hope is for the habitats to support missions in the area of space near the moon, which will be the testing ground for trips to Mars.
Before any of that though, the habitats first have to be designed and built, with full scale prototypes being constructed here on Earth first so scientists can test the designs and see how they might operate once launched into space and make sure they are “well thought out.”
Like the International Space Station, these newly designed habitats will have to not only be a home for the astronauts but will also have to allow for experiments to be conducted.
NASA say an “integrated array of complex systems and components” must be included in the design of any such habitat, including docking capabilities, life support systems, radiation mitigation and monitoring, as well as fire safety technologies and crew health capabilities.
“The ground prototypes will allow NASA and the partners to evaluate configurations of the habitat, how the various systems interact together and with other capabilities like propulsion modules and airlocks, and will provide platforms to test and ensure the standards and common interfaces being considered are well thought out,” NASA said in a statement.
Involved in the designing of these habitats are some of the major corporations involved in aeronautical engineering, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.