NASA’s expansion of BEAM module hits snag
WASHINGTON — Bigelow Aerospace and NASA are reevaluating their plans for the expansion of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) after astronauts on the International Space Station were unable to expand the module to its full size on Thursday.
After terminating the expansion for the day following several hours of attempts that began around 5:30 a.m. EDT, NASA announced that engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to evaluate and analyze data from the expansion so far. If the data provides evidence that another attempt to complete the expansion is possible, operations could continue on Friday.
The module was delivered to the International Space Station on a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft that launched April 8. After BEAM was installed using the station’s robotic Canadarm2 on April 16, Thursday’s expansion was intended to be the first test before astronauts would begin two years of testing BEAM to determine and validate performance and potential capabilities for expandable habitats.
BEAM is intended to be a demonstration of expandable habitat technology for future use in deep-space habitats or Mars missions. Lightweight expandable habitats could greatly reduce transport volume in future missions, as the modules expand upon deployment in space. These “expandables” will provide astronauts with more room to live and work, while providing protection from solar, cosmic and ultraviolet radiation among other elements in the space environment.
Bigelow built BEAM at its North Las Vegas, Nevada facility under a $17.8 million NASA contract announced in 2013.