No, it's not an April Fools joke.

As long-term space living increasingly moves from the realm of science fiction to science fact, NASA is experimenting with different types of habitat that could support human health and productivity in the harsh conditions of deep space.

The first of these, an "inflatable" habitat called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, will soon be installed on the International Space Station and tested over a period of two years.

The BEAM is lightweight and while compressed takes up very little room in a payload rocket. Once inflated with oxygen, it will provide a comfortable place for astronauts to live and work while still protecting them from the hazards of outer space, such as cosmic radiation and debris.

The BEAM will head to the ISS on the eighth SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission, which is expected to launch April 8th. The station's robotic Canadarm 2 will attach it to the Tranquility Node; then, it will be inflated to its full 565 cubic feet. Crews on the ISS will frequently enter the module over the next two years to assess its performance and provide feedback on ideal design features for future space habitats.