Space

First attempt to deploy inflatable habitat on space station is a no-go

The still unexpanded BEAM module attached to the ISS
The still unexpanded BEAM module attached to the ISS
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BEAM packed for transport
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BEAM packed for transport
Cutaway view of BEAM
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Cutaway view of BEAM
BEAM is designed to inflate automatically
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BEAM is designed to inflate automatically
BEAM size comparison
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BEAM size comparison
Side view of BEAM dimension comparison
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Side view of BEAM dimension comparison
BEAM docking port
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BEAM docking port
BEAM x-ray view
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BEAM x-ray view
BEAM being loaded in Dragon depressurized trunk
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BEAM being loaded in Dragon depressurized trunk
Artist's concept of BEAM installed and infalted on the ISS
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Artist's concept of BEAM installed and infalted on the ISS
The still unexpanded BEAM module attached to the ISS
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The still unexpanded BEAM module attached to the ISS

The first attempt to inflate the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the International Space Station (ISS) ended in failure today as astronauts and engineers assess the situation. At 6:10 am EDT, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams partially inflated the experimental habitat module docked to the station's' Tranquility module in what should have been 45-minute operation, but despite several hours of work, the balloon-like fabric only expanded a few inches instead of the planned several feet.

According to NASA, though BEAM has an automatic inflation system, the initial plan was for Williams to manually expand the module by slowly introducing air at low pressure in increments of one to five seconds over a 45-minute period. At the end of this, the module should have reached a pressure of 0.4 PSI as it expanded to a volume of 565 ft3 (16 m3). If no anomalies occurred, more air would have been introduced until the pressure equaled that inside the station.

The timing of the inflation maneuver was chosen because of the need for both daylight and video links with mission control to monitor operations. Unfortunately, it was clear by the time the ISS reached its next video blackout window that the BEAM was not inflating according to predictions, as it refused to expand more than a small amount.

BEAM x-ray view
BEAM x-ray view

The BEAM was delivered to the ISS by an unmanned Dragon cargo ship on April 16. After being transferred to the station using a robotic arm, Williams opened the inner connecting hatch, carried out leak tests and installed hardware to monitor the expansion. Then the restraining straps holding the deflated module were severed using pyrotechnic charges. A second set of attenuation straps keep the fabric under control under pressurization causes them to separate.

Built by Bigelow Aerospace, the BEAM is a prototype of a new class of habitat modules that can be transported into space while taking up less space in the cargo ship carrying it. Once properly inflated, the module will be monitored for about a week, when the module will be opened and the astronauts will carry out the first of several inspections over the next two years. During this time, the crew will observe how well BEAM stands up to solar radiation, space debris, and temperature extremes.

NASA says that the space agency is working with engineers from Bigelow to determine the cause of the malfunction and how or if it can be corrected.

Source: NASA

2 comments
VincentWolf
They probably forgot to stitch up one section.....or close a valve.
Lbrewer42
Good. Anytime I see a failure on the ISS I am pleased. The US did not need the rest of the world to get to the moon. We do not need an ISS. We could have done this ourselves and once did with Skylab. But the globalists put their noses into our space tech and now we have the ISS. Space X and Blue Origins are two companies utilizing good old American know how and Yankee technology to get us past the bureaucratic red tape and anti-American obamanistic policies (like killing our Shuttle program to make us dependent on other nations to get into space) that hampers, and has hampered NASA for so long. Just like the UN has turned into nothing but an anti-American freedom organization on our own soil, the ISS is something we should pull out of and put a better one up for ourselves. The US never needed the rest of the world to achieve high levels of tech/living standards/and wealth that we then freely shared with the rest of the world (along with our own boy;s lives to protect other country's freedoms). We sure don't need them now. Al they do is add even more red tape that DC currently does.