NASA will launch an Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to understand better how expandable habitats work in the space environment. Testings of the module could lead to future space tourism.
The BEAM will be transported to the International Space Station (ISS) inside an unpressurized vehicle called SpaceX Dragon. The use of the expandable habitat will help NASA scientists have a better understanding of this modules.
Expandable habitats or inflatable habitats, decrease in a great amount the volume in space transportation. Thanks to their light weight the modules take less space in a rocket, allowing additional space for more work gear. Astronauts and workspace are better protected under this habitats thanks to their solar and cosmic radiation protection.
The BEAM will allow astronauts in future space missions to use it as a habitable structure while traveling to places like the moon, Mars, asteroids and other space destinations.
Habitats are reliable, durable and safe expandable structures that allow the protection of human health. This types of modules are a great choice in space missions that involve disaster areas or remote locations, since the modules include pipelines to prevent flooding, storm surge protection devices, fluid storage containers, oxygen chambers, between others.
The BEAM will be launched on the SpaceX Dragon when the space vehicle arrives on the ISS it will be docked on to the ISS. Crew members of the station will use a robotic arm attached to the station to extract the BEAM and attached it to the Tranquility Node of the ISS.
Even though astronauts on the ISS will not be using the BEAM as housing, the module will stay attached to the station for two years. Crew members will perform a series of tests and measures to the BEAM, that includes heat, radiation, orbital debris. After testings are over the module will be released from the ISS and burn up in the atmosphere.
Bigelow Aerospace has partnered with NASA to create the BEAM, this aerospace company was founded by US hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, who owns Budget Suites of America. The creation of Bigelow Aerospace represents a closer approach to tourism in space.
The partnership of Bigelow and NASA represents the desire of both parts to create a private sector for the commercialization of space travel. Bigelow’s company has focused on the creation and accommodation of space infrastructure that could, later on, develop in space hotels.
The BEAM will be launched to the ISS on April 8th on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, at approximately 5:00 pm local time.