The U.S Congress has instructed NASA to step up the development of a “habitation module” that can take astronauts on deep space missions. The omnibus spending bill passed by lawmakers earlier this month, which increases the space agency’s funding in 2016 by $1.3 billion, directs NASA to build a “prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program no later than 2018,” Space News reported this week.
A report accompanying the appropriations bill earmarks $55 billion for “habitation augmentation module” development, which would be overseen and paid for by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems program as part of the $350 billion the agency received for Exploration Research and Development in fiscal 2016.
NASA will have to report to Congress on its progress in developing the deep space habitat within 180 days of the spending bill’s enactment, according to Space News.
For now, agency officials aren’t revealing how and when the habitation module will be built and tested. Earlier this month, NASA International Space Station director Sam Scimemi said he was “not immediately aware of any specific plans” for the funding, Space News reported.
After testing the habitation module between Earth and the moon, the plan is to use it to keep crewmembers comfortable and safe on future
The crew capsule set to guide
Meanwhile, NASA’s private sector partners in its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program are eager to start developing the habitation module. Those partners include Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Orbital ATK, all under contract to develop habitat designs, as well as Dynetics, Hamilton Sundstrand, and Orbital Technologies, which are tasked with conceptualizing “specific module technologies, such as life support systems,” per Space News.