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Inflating NASA’s BEAM Module Station Fails

The BEAM Mockup - Photo from Wikipedia

NASA suspended efforts to inflate the first privately built expandable room on the International Space Station (ISS) after initial attempts to puff up the module fizzled out, reports.

The inflatable room, named the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), is an experimental living space created by Bigelow Aerospace. The company has its eye on building private space stations and moon bases while NASA intends to study their technology for use in deep-space habitats. Unfortunately, when astronaut Jeff Williams began the procedures for inflating BEAM on the ISS, the module failed to expand and flight controllers had to call everything to a halt. A video of the BEAM inflation attempt can be seen here, thanks to NASA.

A statement released by NASA officials says, “NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned.” The engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where ISS Mission Control is located, are at work figuring out what the next steps are. “They are evaluating data from the expansion that has occurred thus far. If the data supports a resumption of operations, another attempt to complete the module’s expansion could come as early tomorrow,” the statement adds.

In the inflation, Williams manually pumped air into the BEAM module with a small valve at 1- to 4-second intervals. The module started increasing by about 5 inches, then stopped. Mission Control called for a stand down for the day to inspect the circumstances. Williams said he’d be ready for the next attempt.

When packed and deflated, the BEAM module is a cylinder a little over 7 feet long and 8 feet wide. Once fully inflated, BEAM becomes more than 13 feet long and 10.5 feet wide, with 565 cubic feet of space inside it.

NASA and Bigelo Aerospace are both studying the module over the next two years to see how effective it can be as a space habitat.

BEAM was launched to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship on April 8, arriving on April 10. On April 16, the module was installed on the ISS’s Tranquility node.

Bigelow Aerospace is currently developing a larger space habitat, which they call the B330, designed to provide a massive 11,650 cubic feet of space and intended to be the beginning of a commercial space station or manned base on Mars or the moon.


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