January 17, 2013 at 3:10 am #785
A new module’s coming to the International Space Station in 2015. A module that blows up! [LINK]
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Jan. 16 a newly planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology. NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.
The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015. Following the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the BEAM to the station, astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to install the module on the aft port of the Tranquility node.
After the module is berthed to the Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurization system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module.
During the two-year test period, station crew members and ground-based engineers will gather performance data on the module, including its structural integrity and leak rate. An assortment of instruments embedded within module also will provide important insights on its response to the space environment. This includes radiation and temperature changes compared with traditional aluminum modules.
Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.
Bigelow has already demonstrated the technology on a standalone basis with its Genesis I and Genesis II inflatible space stations (an actual externally-mounted camera view from Genesis I is shown above). Funnily enough, Bigelow’s designs are based on research that NASA did in the 1990s, which of course was public domain, so whatever NASA’s paying them for now, it’s built on the back of however many millions of dollars NASA spent on the initial concepts (called TransHab) back then. Funny old world this thing’s gonna be orbiting.April 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm #4723
The Bigelow BEAM module is going up to the ISS today as part of the Dragon cargo shipment being launched at 4:43 PM eastern time.April 8, 2016 at 9:33 pm #4724
SpaceX finally stuck the landing at sea! 😮October 5, 2017 at 7:23 pm #21543
Apparently BEAM’s status so far has NASA engineers…well…beaming. [LINK]
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was only supposed to stay attached to the ISS for two years. It’s been performing well enough in its technological demonstration, however, that NASA now wants to extend its stint for three more years. Astronauts aboard the ISS installed BEAM in early 2016 as an experiment, with the intention of regularly checking its integrity, conducting radiation shielding experiments and collecting microbial air and surface samples from within its confines. The results of those tests prove that the module is tough enough to survive the harsh conditions of outer space for far longer than its original lifespan.
While Bigelow Aerospace ultimately wants its expandable habitat to serve as living quarters, it’s way too early to expect astronauts to live inside the module. BEAM will instead serve as storage space to hold up to 130 cargo transfer bags used to transport supplies from a spacecraft to the station.
Always encouraging when something not only exceeds the design specs, but races past them and leaves them in the dust.
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