This artist's concept depicts the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), constructed by Bigelow Aerospace, attached to the International Space Station. The BEAM will be launched to the space station later this year.
NASA and Bigelow Aerospace invite media to a photo and interview opportunity at 10 a.m. PST on Thursday, March 12, at Bigelow Aerospace’s North Las Vegas facility to mark the completion of all major milestones on the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM).
Reporters will have the opportunity to see and photograph the BEAM before it’s shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launch to the International Space Station later this year. Robert Bigelow, president and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, and William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, will conduct a joint question and answer session with media.
To attend, media must contact Mike Gold at email@example.com or 202-274-0227. Media seeking additional information, or who would like to request a one-on-one interview with Bigelow, also should contact Gold. Reporters seeking a one-on-one interview with Gerstenmaier should contact Stephanie Schierholz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-358-1100.
The demonstration of expandable space habitat technology supports NASA’s long-term exploration goals on its journey to Mars, for which the agency will need to develop a deep space habitat for human missions beyond Earth orbit.
The BEAM is scheduled to launch in the second half of this year aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station and be installed on the aft port of the station’s Tranquility node.
New Expandable Addition on Space Station to Gather Critical Data for Future Space Habitat Systems
William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, and Jason Crusan, director of the agency's advanced exploration systems division, view the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module at Bigelow’s facility in Las Vegas on March 12.
NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are preparing to launch an expandable habitat module to the International Space Station this year. The agency joined Bigelow Thursday at its Las Vegas facility to mark completion of the company’s major milestones.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, leverages key innovations in lightweight and compact materials, departing from a traditional rigid metallic structure. In its packed configuration aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket, the module will measure approximately 8 feet in diameter. Once attached to the space station’s Tranquility Node and after undergoing a series of hardware validations, the module will be deployed, resulting in an additional 565 cubic feet of volume — about the size of a large family camping tent — accessible by astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Expandable habitats could be a new way to dramatically increase the amount of volume available to astronauts while also enhancing protection against radiation and physical debris. Innovative advances in efficiency provided by expandable habitats may give the nation new options for extending human presence farther into the solar system, both in transit and on the surface of other worlds, while also supporting the development of innovative platforms for commercial use in low-Earth orbit.
In the next decade, NASA plans to extend human spaceflight from low-Earth orbit operations to “proving ground” operations in cis-lunar space orbiting the moon. In the proving ground, NASA and its partners will validate vital hardware, including deep space habitats, as well as operations and capabilities necessary to send humans on long-duration missions to Mars or other deep-space destinations in which they must operate independently from Earth. The International Space Station serves as the world's leading laboratory for conducting cutting-edge research and is the primary platform for technology development and testing in space to enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including asteroids and Mars.
“We’re fortunate to have the space station to demonstrate potential habitation capabilities like BEAM,” said Jason Crusan, director of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “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.”
Once BEAM is attached to the Tranquility Node, the space station crew will perform initial systems checks before deploying the habitat. During the BEAM’s minimum two-year test period, crews will routinely enter to take measurements and monitor its performance to help inform designs for future habitat systems. Learning how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeroids, and orbital debris will provide information to address key concerns about living in the harsh environment of space.
The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. Bigelow Aerospace is building on technology NASA conceived in the 1990s and licensed to the company. NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are each benefitting from the sharing of expertise, costs, and risks to pursue mutual goals.
The module is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s eighth cargo resupply mission to the space station later this year.
BEAM: A space habitat created in North Las Vegas
Robert Bigelow speaks during the Bigelow Aerospace introduction Thursday, March 12, 2015, of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. He is the company founder and is joined by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.
Houston may be home to the U.S. space program, but out-of-this-world innovations also are being created right here in Southern Nevada.
NASA officials recently visited Bigelow Aerospace’s sprawling 50-acre campus in North Las Vegas to view the completed Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a $17.8 million space habitat billionaire Robert Bigelow and his team invented for the federal government.
A larger and more nimble alternative to traditional thick, rigid space structures, BEAM is an inflatable room that can collapse and expand in space. It will be attached to the International Space Station this fall and will remain in place for two years while scientists and other crew test its usability.
What is it?
BEAM is an expandable space habitat that, when inflated, serves as a self-contained room for astronauts. It is the first flexible, nonmetallic structure to be tested in space. It is about the size of a large family camping tent, resembles a thick, steel-belted tire and inside looks like a large closet with white padded walls and assorted sensors and equipment.
Made partially from variants of Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests, BEAM is lighter and smaller than other space habitats. The main component that gives the module its compact, expandable structure is several layers of Vectran, a synthetic, heat-resistant fiber twice as a strong as Kevlar and commonly used to reinforce ropes and cables. NASA uses Vectran in spacesuits and as airbags on several Mars lander systems.
How it works
The BEAM will be trucked to Florida, then launched as early as September from Cape Canaveral Air Force station aboard a robotic SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. Once the SpaceX reaches the International space station, astronauts will deploy the station’s robotic arm and affix BEAM to a docking port on the Space Station’s Tranquility node, a process called berthing.
Once BEAM is attached, astronauts will activate a pressurization system that will expand BEAM with air stored inside the module. BEAM also can be inflated using pressure from the space station. The inflation process takes about four and a half minutes.
How it will be used
Video still from Bigelow Aerospace as they introduce the B.E.A.M. (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) on Thursday, March, 12, 2015. L.E. Baskow
What exactly BEAM will be used for during its two-year stay remains up for discussion. NASA officials have suggested crew members will enter the room several times a year to collect data. The hatch would remain closed the rest of the time.
Using the module will be less important than testing its integrity and demonstrating how it holds up to space conditions. BEAM will be monitored for leaks, temperature changes and responses to radiation from varying positions in relation to the sun. Acoustics and resistance to debris also will be tracked.
What could BEAM be used for?
Inflatable modules are an important step toward developing deep-space habitats that support NASA’s plans for extended human space flight, particularly the goal of sending a manned mission to Mars. If BEAM’s mission is successful, it could open the door to developing larger modules as free-floating space stations or, as some BEAM executives have hinted, using future habitats to support developments on the moon.
In the short term, expandable habitats can be used as extra space for testing, research and storage aboard existing structures such as the International Space Station. BEAMs can be tailored to specific activities and missions, and can be connected to create larger structures. They also may be used in orbit for commercial purposes such as research, warehousing and manufacturing for pharmaceutical companies, automakers and space engineering firms, whose work could benefit from the module’s weightless environment.
BEAM also is being touted for its potential to offer stronger protection than its predecessors against radiation and physical debris such as micrometeoroids. The layers of Vectran give the structure flexible walls believed to be able to sustain impact from debris far better than the rigid walls of current modules. Ground lab testing found that micrometeoroids that normally would puncture the International Space Station only made it about halfway through BEAM’s skin.
The concept of inflatable space habitats dates to the 1960s but gained steam in the 1990s with a module called TransHab. The inflatable module was proposed as a crew quarters for the International Space Station and was tested, but NASA canceled the program in 2000.
Bigelow Aerospace licensed the technology from NASA and continued to develop the module, launching prototypes into orbit in 2006 and 2007. NASA took a second look at the technology in 2010 and contracted Bigelow in December 2012.
What’s next for Bigelow?
BEAM is a scaled-down version of Bigelow’s BA330 system, which the company is in the midst of developing. The BA330 will be larger, with 11,664 cubic feet of space and able to support a crew of up to six.
Even larger modules, such as the 79,458-cubic-foot Olympus — twice the size of the International Space Station — also are in the works.
The scaled-up versions will be marketed as stand-alone commercial space stations for research organizations, corporations and governments. Bigelow said two 330 modules could be shipped by the end of 2017 and deployed in 2018.
Quelle: LAS VEGAS SUN