At 5:36 am EDT on Saturday, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the first expandable habitat placed in space, was successfully installed in the International Space Station (ISS), following the extraction from Space X’s Dragon.
BEAM was installed to study concepts that could be the key for future space explorations. According to NASA, the space station was flying over the Southern Pacific Ocean at the time of installation. It will be attached to the ISS for a test period of two years.
In late May, BEAM will be filled with air and expanded to its full size. Astronauts will enter BEAM on an occasional basis to conduct tests to validate the module’s overall performance and the capability of expandable habitats. After the testing period is completed, BEAM will be released from the space station to eventually burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Habitats to keep astronauts safe and healthy
BEAM will be the first test of such a module attached to the space station. Investigators will be able to enter BEAM on an occasional basis to gauge its general performance, the way it protects from the solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space and the capability of expandable habitats.
NASA is planning to expand the module to almost five times its compressed size (8 feet in diameter by 7 feet in length) to 10 feet in diameter and 13 feet in length at the end of next month. Once the test period is completed, BEAM will be released from the space station and eventually it will burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA is studying and investigating methods to make sure astronauts can be in healthy conditions during space explorations. The concept of expandable habitats is under consideration. It requires less payload volume on the rocket than traditional rigid structures and expand after being deployed in space to provide additional room for astronauts to live and work inside.
BEAM was launched aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on April 8 from Florida.