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Learn About NASA’s New Inflatable Space Habitat That Totally Looks Like a Marshmallow


The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), constructed by Bigelow Aerospace will be transferred to the the International Space Station during SpaceX’s resupply mission next month for attachment to Node 3. NASA announced these plans a few years back, with the original launching scheduled for 2015. This will be the first time the station has had an “expandable” or “inflatable,” so the animation above has presented a couple different expansion scenarios that they might see when BEAM attaches. In very scientific terms, a station covered with these little marshmallow units sounds adorable and efficient!

You can read about it in more detail over at NASA, but here’s a brief rundown: BEAM is a windowless inflatable made of “two metal bulkheads, an aluminum structure, and multiple layers of soft fabric with spacing between layers, protecting an internal restraint and bladder system.” Once expanded, the pressure will be equalized and the crew will install sensors, enter BEAM, and observe it over 2 years in terms of how durability, structure, etc. react to the thermal environment, radiation, micrometeroids, and orbital debris (after which it will be robotically jettisoned and burned by Earth’s atmosphere).

Expandable modules are great for the obvious reason that lower mass and lower volume = efficiency and lower mission costs, so hopefully BEAM will lead to future developments.

(via Popular Science)

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