6 Deep Space Habitat Designs Tapped by NASA

We may not yet be able to live in deep space, but we can check out prototypes of our future accommodations.

If you've ever been on a long car ride, you know that a voyage far away from home -- especially in a small environment -- is a considerable challenge. You need facilities for food, water, toilet functions and many other things. Imagine compounding this situation with having to live in deep space, where you have to bring oxygen, pressure and other life-giving functions with you. And let's not forget about exercise!

NASA recently selected six companies to lead work on prototypes for deep-space habitats. These prototypes will be important testing grounds to see how humans and systems behave before sending them out into deep space. Read on to see what each company proposes.

See the candidates below:

style="text-align: left;">1. Bigelow

style="text-align: left;">Bigelow is best-known for its inflatable mini space stations, which are being monitored to see how space materials behave after many years in orbit. It has had two modules in orbit for about a decade: Genesis I launched in July 2006 and Genesis II in June 2007. Just recently, a Bigelow module was added to the International Space Station.

style="text-align: left;">Naturally, Bigelow's vision for deep space includes inflatables as well. Its prototype is called the XBASE (Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement), which would be about 330 cubic meters in size. It's not only big enough to house people, but also hardware that could be used one day in deep space.

RELATED: Space Station Ready for Inflatable Habitat Test

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

style="text-align: left;">2. Boeing

style="text-align: left;">Boeing has its fingers in a lot of space technologies, ranging from rocketry to satellites. It's the prime contractor for the International Space Station and is creating the Space Launch System, a huge rocket expected to bring humans out into the solar system. Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft will bring humans to the ISS starting in 2018.

style="text-align: left;">The company is literally building on its ISS experience by creating a "modular habitat system" -- in other words, an environment with several different space modules. It plans a ground habitat to test how humans and systems would work properly far away from home.

PHOTOS: International Space Station: 15+ Years Living Off Earth

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Boeing

style="text-align: left;">3. Lockheed Martin

style="text-align: left;">Lockheed Martin has already been out in deep space because the company has built spacecraft ranging across the solar system. Lately, we've been talking a lot about Juno's mission at Jupiter, but it has also built several Mars spacecraft, the space shuttle external tank and Orion -- a spacecraft expected to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit.

style="text-align: left;">Lockheed plans to refurbish a multi-purpose logistics module, which was a sort of storage unit used to bring supplies and equipment to the ISS during the shuttle program. This will be transformed into a habitat prototype that has avionics (data communication between the habitat and Orion) and an environmental control and life support system.

RELATED: Juno Arrives at Jupiter

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Lockheed Martin

style="text-align: left;">4. NanoRacks

style="text-align: left;">NanoRacks is a company that has several facilities on the International Space Station. It rents these facilities (which include items such as research modules and a centrifuge) to entities that want to do research on the orbiting complex. It also has a CubeSat deployer on the station to send mini-satellites into low Earth orbit.

style="text-align: left;">NanoRacks is partnering with Space Systems Loral and United Launch Alliance to convert the upper stage of a launch vehicle into a pressurized habitat. This group is called the Ixion Team and they are hoping that their idea can be used for any kind of rocket, such as the Space Launch System.

RELATED: Tiny 'ThumbSats' Aim to Bring Space to All

style="text-align: left;">Credit: NanoRacks

style="text-align: left;">5) Orbital ATK

style="text-align: left;">Orbital ATK is a fairly new (since 2015) conglomerate created from a merger between Orbital Sciences Corp. and some of Alliant Techsystems. It is perhaps best known for producing Cygnus cargo spacecraft that go to the International Space Station. The heritage of Orbital ATK also includes many satellites (such as some Intelsats), part of the James Webb Space Telescope and several launch vehicles (including the Antares rocket that used to launch Orions to the ISS.)

style="text-align: left;">Orbital plans a habitat that would be based on Cygnus, that could eventually be used in cis-lunar space -- the area between the Earth and the moon. The company says this work will help with NASA's plans to eventually send astronauts to Mars.

RELATED: Orbital Cargo Ship Finally Flies Atop Hired Rocket

Credit: Orbital ATK

style="text-align: left;">6. Sierra Nevada

style="text-align: left;">Sierra Nevada is most famous for its Dream Chaser spacecraft, which was one of the contenders to send astronauts to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial crew program. While the Dream Chaser did not receive the final batch of funds from NASA for humans, it will be used as a cargo spacecraft to resupply the ISS late this decade.

style="text-align: left;">The company plans a modular habitat that will be based on Dream Chaser's cargo module. Part of the habitat will also include an inflatable module, a propulsion system and an environment and life support system.

RELATED: Dream Chaser Spaceplane to Supply the Space Station

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.