Bigelows inflatable ISS module announced intended to test inflatable modules

first_imgRecently, NASA announced that they awarded Bigelow Aerospace a $17.8 million contract to construct an inflatable module for the International Space Station. Speculation suggested that the module would be the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which can be viewed as something of a glorified, multipurpose storage facility. Today, NASA and Bigelow had their joint conference announcing the details of the contract and module, and that previous speculation proved correct.The BEAM module will be built by Bigelow, but launched to the ISS by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will house the module within an unpressurized cargo hold. Once the rocket arrives at the ISS, a robotic arm will attach the inflatable module to an open area of the station’s Node 3 connecting module. The astronauts on the station will then inflate the BEAM, which weighs around 3,000 pounds, and measures in at about 13 x 10.5 feet. The launch is planned for some time in 2015.Rather than shoving a popup laboratory into the BEAM, or using it for an expandable living or sleeping habitat, NASA is simply using it to test the viability of inflatable modules, as well as to become more familiar with the technology.Aside from nabbing a high-profile contract, Bigelow is also invested in a successful BEAM experiment because it serves as a testing ground for their larger BA 330 module, which is another inflatable module that can be linked with other BA 330s to form something of an inflatable space complex.Reportedly, Bigelow’s inflatable modules not only protect against micrometeorites, but offer “enhanced protection” from radiation. The habitats are also cheaper than the standard ones found in space today, which is another reason why NASA will be testing the BEAM, and why if successful, Bigelow’s test-run could pave the way for a revolution in space travel and habitation.via NASAlast_img

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