Next-STEP 2 will feature a competitive contract model for six companies chosen by NASA: Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corp, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks, and Boeing. These companies will provide prototypes from a shared grant of $65 million provided by NASA, along with up to 30 percent of their own money to added developmental costs.
|Deep Space Habitat Prototype|
"The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing, and to help define overall system functionality, These are important activities, as they help define the design standards, common interfaces and requirements while reducing risks for the final flight systems that will come after this phase."
In essence, all six companies will have to find innovative ways to develop new designs of deep space habitats that will be subject to rigorous testing and risk assessment. Afterwards, NASA will almost certainly tweak whatever final prototype they choose, which will serve as the basis for the next generation of an increasingly interesting landscape of deep space exploration.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.