NASA and SpaceX Are Sending an Inflatable Habitat Module to the ISS Next Week

Tuesday, 29 March 2016 - 11:09AM
Space
SpaceX
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 - 11:09AM
NASA and SpaceX Are Sending an Inflatable Habitat Module to the ISS Next Week
Next week, NASA will attempt to send a payload to the ISS using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, for the first time since the rocket famously exploded last June. In addition to your boilerplate supplies, the rocket will also include materials for over 250 scientific experiments, including the first test of an inflatable habitat that could allow us to live on the Moon or Mars without life support equipment.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) utilizes lightweight and compact non-metallic materials that can expand to up to 10 times its original volume. The module is approximately 8 feet in diameter, or the size of a small bedroom, and will attach directly to the ISS. In order to test the module, sensors will measure the radiation levels, temperature, and impact from debris, and astronauts will directly try it out for a few hours at a time 4-6 times per year for the minimum two-year testing period. 

Opening quote
"We're fortunate to have the space station to demonstrate potential habitation capabilities like BEAM," Jason Crusan, director of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement. "Station provides us with a long-duration microgravity platform with constant crew access to evaluate systems and technologies we are considering for future missions farther into deep space."
Closing quote

If it's proven to be effective, the module, which comes from a collaboration with Bigelow Aerospace, should serve as an inflatable space tent. During the testing period, astronauts should be able to spend time in the module without spacesuits, and the technology could eventually allow for inexpensive, lightweight habitats for the Moon or Mars.
Science
NASA
Space
SpaceX

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