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Expandable warehouse module proposal

By 2015, RKK Energia formulated the concept of a "warehouse" module, apparently designated 582GK, which would rely on expandable technology. If ever built, the module could be added to the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, or to the follow-on Russian space station.

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Two views of the mid-size expandable module: A -- covers of storage lockers removed (1 - soft walls of storage system emulate wall surface; 2 - hard walls of the storage system); B -- covers of the storage lockers installed (3 -- section dividers (floor panels); 4 -- locker covers (wall panels)). Credit: RKK Energia

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In September 2013, the head of RKK Energia Vitaly Lopota told the Interfax news agency that the company had been working on multiple applications of transformable structures and had considered flexible structures that would harden after deployment in orbit. Lopota singled out the development of an inflatable warehouse module (for the Russian segment of the ISS), which could be launched at the end of the decade, given a government contract.

In 2016, RKK Energia announced that key research and theoretical work on transformable structures had been completed, resulting in the selection of the final design and the composition of the module's expandable skin. The company also selected a preliminary structural design of the storage module, which would use an expandable body.

After its launch on the Soyuz-2-1b rocket (capable of carrying up to eight tons of payload), the module could be docked at the space station and expanded to reach a volume from 90 to 100 cubic meters. (785)

The proposed warehouse module would include a box-shaped solid core with a cross-section of two meters. During launch this area could be used as a cargo compartment. Combined with the surrounding soft skin, the solid core would provide higher radiation protection than the one available inside traditional metal compartments. The interior of the expandable section would be subdivided into four large sections with deployable flat walls. In addition to storage rooms, the expandable section could accommodate scientific gear and even living compartments for crew members.

RKK Energia characterized the proposed 100-cubic-meter structure as medium size, as oppose to large-size module, which could provide between 250 and 300 cubic meters of room, but would require Proton-M or Angara-5 rockets for launch. Both variants would have the same diameter when folded or inflated but vary from 6.6 to 15 meters in the length.

Comparison of the two proposed module sizes:

100-cubic-meter module
250-cubic-meter module
General architecture
Launch vehicle
*4.75 tons
up to 20.7 tons
Payload section type designator
81 KS
Liftoff diameter
3.75 meters
**3.9 meters
Diameter in deployed position
7.1 meters
7.1 meters
6.6 meters
14.6 meters

*8.28 tons with the Progress-based space tug; **3.75 meters for expandable section

The company hoped that the testing of the first expandable module onboard the ISS could pave the way for inflatable structures to a near-lunar orbital station or even to the lunar and martian bases. (784)

During 2015, RKK Energia reportedly asked Roskosmos for money for the full-scale development of the expandable module, however its funding status was not immediately clear at the time.


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The article by Anatoly Zak

Last update: August 10, 2016

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Likely configurations for a fully assembled, low-cost successor to the ISS proposed by the Russian space industry in 2014. The facility includes the MLM module (top), a Node Module (center), an Inflatable Habitat (left), a Soyuz spacecraft (background); Docking and Airlock Compartment (right) and the Oka-T free-flying laboratory (bottom). Copyright © 2014 Anatoly Zak


Structural composition of the Russian inflatable storage module as of 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia

A cutaway view of one proposed transformable (inflatable) module configuration featuring a large centrifuge. Credit: RKK Energia

Folding method proposed for the Russian expandable module. Credit: RKK Energia