NASA has decided to keep the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) on the International Space Station (ISS). The textile module will stay attached to the ISS through 2020, or possibly longer.
The ISS crew’s studies have shown that soft materials can perform as well as rigid ones for habitation volumes and that BEAM has performed as designed in regards to space debris. Since its expansion in May 2016, BEAM has undergone radiation shielding experiments and routine microbial air and surface sampling by the ISS crew.
NASA and Bigelow collaboratively analyzed the feasibility of BEAM’s life extension. Astronauts then began the work of removing hardware from the initial expansion, installing air ducts, netting, and empty bags in order to define BEAM’s volume of stowage space. BEAM may feature a power/data interface, allowing for more collaborative technology demonstrations. The module holds 130 cargo transfer bags of stowage, frees up room for astronauts, and has NASA’s thermal, impact and radiation sensors.
BEAM originally rode the eighth SpaceX commercial resupply service mission into orbit in 2016. Since then, space station crew members have entered Bigelow’s expandable activity module more than a dozen times. All samples from experiments conducted inside return to earth for microbial analysis at the Johnson Space center.
Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Las Vegas, Nev., is a general contracting, research and development company. The NASA/ Bigelow public-private partnership supports NASA’s objective to develop deep space habitation for human missions beyond earth, and it supports commercial capabilities for non-government applications.