SpaceX’s dragon capsule has docked with the International Space Station, and with it a new sort of inflatable habitat for the astronauts aboard the ISS. The capsule docked two days after taking off from Cape Canaveral, a launch which made history in the reusable space industry.
The inflatable habitat was made by Bigelow Aerospace and was just one part of the nearly three tonnes of cargo that SpaceX transported in the lasted rendezvous with the ISS. The habitat is set to be expanded and used sometime in May, though astronauts will mostly remain clear of it, instead they will be running experiments in it and monitoring how it performs in space.
Bigelow Aerospace plans to make inflatable space stations for commercial usage in around 4 years. Inflatable technology is also being considered by NASA for a potential outpost on the surface of Mars.
The launch two days earlier was historic as it was the first time SpaceX was able to successfully land the first stage booster of their rocket on a floating platform in the middle of the ocean. A feat which they had failed to do four times before, though SpaceX had managed to land one of their boosters on dry land in December.
The ability to reuse a rocket is considered by many to be the first step in making space flight cheaper and more accessible. SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, plans to use the reduced price of spaceflight to establish a permanent settlement of the surface of Mars.