The US space agency will build prototypes of space habitats. Full-scale constructions will test life support systems and other equipment.
NASA is preparing intensively for the first manned space missions that will be launched in just a few years, starting with the Mars expedition of 2030. Of course, before you set foot on an alien planet, you should design a shelter where you will live for some time.
This is not an easy task because the habitats have to meet certain conditions, not only providing astronauts with comfort, but also safety and functionality. NASA some time ago launched the implementation of Next Space Technologies for Exploration, which aims to create prototypes of such habitats. The program is just entering the second phase, where full-scale prototypes will be built, the six most promising projects.
Boeing is the first habitat constructor to be modular and serve a variety of tasks. Another project has been developed by Lockheed Martin, which designs a multifunctional habitat featuring avionics and life support systems, and will be used to provide inventory on ISS.
The third company is Orbital ATK, which plans to further develop its cosmic habitat, a spaceship between Earth and Moon. This project is to serve as a transhipment warehouse to supply space station supplies.
The Sierra Nevada Corporation project goes in the same direction and is also going to be something like a space shuttle with inflatable components. It will also have its own drive and life support system.
The next prototype is the NanoRacks, a Texas company that wants to see if it can transform the upper carrier rocket into a construction in which astronauts could live.