ISS is BEAMed up

BEAMFor the first time since the final Space Shuttle flights in 2011, a new habitation module is attached to the International Space Station. Brought to orbit via a recent Dragon unmanned cargo craft, the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module), constructed by Bigelow Aerospace based on ideas studied by NASA in the 1990s, is a test of a reinforced, inflatible crew module for the station. (The inflation of the module will be accomplished via a supply of air built into the module itself.) Not to be inflated and occupied until May, BEAM will be studied for its resistance to solar radiation and micrometeroid impacts over a two-year period. Bigelow already has plans for an independent, commercial space station utilizing similar inflatible designs if BEAM’s tour of duty is a success, and has previously orbited testbed models of inflatible station modules.