NASA Delays Inflatable Space Habitat After Failed Deployment
In April, NASA and SpaceX sent their BEAM module, an inflatable habitat that could allow us to live on the Moon or Mars, to the ISS for its first test. That test was scheduled for this morning, but after a problem-riddled attempt, they have put off the deployment. If their research goes well today, they hope to make another attempt tomorrow.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) utilizes lightweight and compact non-metallic materials that can expand to up to 10 times its original volume. It is currently attached to the ISS, and was supposed to inflate to its full size this morning, May 26 for its first test.
But NASA's technicians almost immediately ran into problems during the launch. First, they failed to receive a confirmation that the straps had been cut that kept the BEAM in its compact configuration. They found a workaround that confirmed the straps had been cut, but then during the inflation process, the width of the module expanded instead of its length. And although only a small amount of air was released before NASA discovered the problem, the module expanded less than expected, only growing a few inches larger than its compact size.
NASA is currently working with Bigelow Aerospace to determine what went wrong with today's planned launch. "If the data supports a resumption of operations," said a NASA communications officer, "another attempt to complete the module's expansion could come as early as tomorrow."
There is some uncertainty as to how the module would deploy in a space environment, but NASA currently has four different models for the process. Once the launch is successful, the inflation of the module will help determine which of these models will be followed when the BEAM is used as an actual space habitat.
Via Popular Science