The Bigelow BEAM installed onto the ISS (Photo: NASA/Bigelow)

More details emerge on NASA’s plan for inflatable ISS module

By Brian Dodson
January 20, 2013

NASA announced last week that it has contracted Bigelow Aerospace to construct an inflatable module to test on the International Space Station. Following the release of more information and imagery, here’s a closer look at what the plan entails.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is an expandable space station module currently being developed by Bigelow Aerospace, under contract to NASA, for use as a module on the International Space Station (ISS) during 2015 to 2017.

Bigelow Aerospace licensed the technology developed by NASA for multi-layer expandable space modules after Congress cancelled the SpaceHab unit being developed as part of the International Space Station (ISS) in 1999. Bigelow has now spent a decade and nearly US$200 million on the technology and practice of inflatable space habitats, including launching two test modules, Genesis I and II, into orbit in the mid-2000s.

The BEAM module being developed for the ISS is quite small, and will only add about two percent to the overall pressurized volume of the ISS. Four meters (13 ft) in length and 3.2 m (10.5 ft.) in diameter, the BEAM is roughly cylindrical in shape. (A doughnut-shape was considered initially, but in the end a cylinder seemed more likely to meet NASA’s testing requirements.)

Read more: More details emerge on NASA's plan for inflatable ISS module — gizmag.

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