NASA has always hoped to build a new expandable environment in space. This long awaited dream can now become a reality. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module or BEAM will soon be delivered to the ISS this Spring.
NASA STARTS INFLATABLE SPACE COLONY
BEAM will be ferried to the ISS for a series of tests that will last several years. Once attached, it will expand and pressurize so the crew can insert sensors to monitor the BEAM’s performance. If the experiments are deemed a success, then that could lead to more living quarters being built for deep-space missions. Now, let’s get the details on this giant space pillow.
INSIDE THE BEAM
Coming in at 3,000 pounds and measuring about 12-feet long and 10-feet wide (fully expanded), the BEAM is designed to give astronauts a lot more space during long missions. NASA is designing the units to be used as working quarters, living quarters and even outfitted with lab equipment. NASA will transport the BEAM in it’s deflated state. Using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, the BEAM will be taken to the ISS on the next scheduled mission this coming April 8. Once on the station, it will be unpacked and blown up to its full size. That’s about four times the original volume.
THE FUTURE OF ASTRAL LIVING
While this is certainly good news for NASA and space habitats, don’t expect any immediate results. Astronauts will not live in the BEAM just yet. Instead, it will go through a two-year testing period to show if it’s ready for life in orbit. As one can imagine, sensors will measure air pressure, radiation levels, temperature and other information. Once perfected, the BEAM will offer some amazing possibilities for astral travel. The structures weigh less than a metal structure of the same size and take up much less space. This will reduce the number of resupply missions and allow for lighter carry during voyages. On a side note, BEAM was developed by Bigelow Aerospace, a company known for their chain of American extended hotels called Budget Suites. Perhaps the idea of a NASA orbital suite is not so far fetched after all.