It took a couple of attempts, but over the weekend NASA successfully inflated the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the International Space Station (ISS). In case you weren't onsite with seven-plus hours to spare, NASA has released a handy time-lapse video that shows the module grow to full size.
BEAM was carried to the ISS by SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship on April 16 and handed over using a robotic arm. Astronauts began inflating the module on May 26, but the fabric only expanded several inches rather than several feet, with an unplanned 15-month long stint in storage the suspected culprit behind the issue.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
After letting the tightly-packed fabric relax for a day, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams slowly fed air into BEAM in a process that would take almost seven-and-a-half hours. Eventually the module reached its capacity with engineers on Earth carefully monitoring its interior pressure to avoid unwanted loads on the ISS' Tranquility module, where the module had docked.
You can see BEAM take shape in the time-lapse video below.