NASA’s Inflatable Bounce House—Er, Space Habitat—Now Successfully Deployed After Initial Problems
Party on the ISS!
Last week, NASA was having a bit of trouble blowing up (inflating, not destroying) their BEAM inflatable space habitat much like a winded partier trying to blow up a raft over the holiday weekend. Now, they’ve gotten it to work, which means it’s time to set about testing the habitat to make sure it’s actually worth blowing up in the first place. Gotta save your energy in that summer heat, after all.
The original attempt to inflate the ISS’s newest addition, it seems, was halted by forces greater than had been anticipated in theoretical models—specifically pressure inside the module and friction on the fabric sections that were meant to slide outward as BEAM expanded. That’s what NASA officials explained in a press call on Friday, with Jason Crusan, director of Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters in Washington, saying,
We ran into higher forces than we believe our models predicted, and we approached pressures that weren’t part of our models. The primary force that we believe that we are working against are friction forces between the fabrics. Those are the part that are most likely the contributing factor.
By modifying their inflation methods a bit, they were able to mitigate those problems, and the module was finally fully expanded and pressurized on Saturday. In the video above, you can see it expand from its original 7 feet in length and 7.7 in diameter to 13 feet long and 10.5 in diameter—much more impressive than the initial attempt’s few inches of expansion. The advantage of such an expandable habitat is saving on room and weight aboard future space missions, but now the ISS astronauts have to spend the next two years testing it to make sure that it not only inflated but will adequately protect them from the harsh environment of space.
(image via NASA TV)
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