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posted by mrpg on Thursday October 05 2017, @04:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the moon-hostel dept.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, an experimental inflatable habitat/room attached to the International Space Station, will continue to be used for storage and radiation testing in the near future rather than being jettisoned to burn in Earth's atmosphere:

In a procurement filing, NASA said it was planning to issue a sole-source contract to Bigelow Aerospace in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 for engineering and other services related to extended use of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). The planned contract, whose value was not disclosed, will cover three years with two additional one-year options.

BEAM was launched to the ISS in April 2016 and, a month and a half later, attached to the station and expanded to its full size. NASA planned to keep BEAM at the station for two years in order to perform engineering tests about the suitability of such expandable, or inflatable, modules for future use on the station or other missions. At the end of the two-year period, NASA planned to jettison BEAM and allow it to destructively reenter the atmosphere.

NASA now sees BEAM, in additional to an engineering testbed, as a place for additional storage on the ISS. "BEAM continues to demonstrate positive performance in space and initial studies have shown that it can be used long-term on the ISS to support the government's needs for on-orbit stowage and for technology demonstrations," the agency said in its procurement filing.

The agency expects to use BEAM to store more than 100 Cargo Transfer Bags, a standard unit of cargo storage on the station that measures about half a cubic meter. That will free up the equivalent of about four payload racks in other modules of the station for research. NASA will also continue to study the module's effectiveness for radiation and debris shielding.

Also at Ars Technica.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05 2017, @04:51AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05 2017, @04:51AM (#577312)

    Now I will never be able to get my Millennial not astronaut person out of the house, ever. Guess it is time for me to go to Mars. Radiation is no biggie, if you never will ever use your gonads again.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by frojack on Thursday October 05 2017, @06:01AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 05 2017, @06:01AM (#577322) Journal

      Radiation is no biggie, if you never will ever use your gonads again.

      Or even if you do use them again:
      http://www.rerf.jp/radefx/genetics_e/birthdef.html [www.rerf.jp]

      Its not surprising that the contract was sole source since the BEAM structure and the material its made of are patented [google.com] and developed prior to any NASA contract.

      At the very point in time where people are talking about shelters on the moon and Mars, this thing is performing far better in space than anyone imagined. It costs nothing to keep it there, other than a little replacement atmosphere to compensate for leaks, which seem to be way less than they were expecting. I suspect this will turn out to be one of the most significant inventions for off planet shelters.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05 2017, @08:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05 2017, @08:09AM (#577354)

    Inflatable housing? Are we not supposed to build stone pyramids when we get to Mars?

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by CZB on Thursday October 05 2017, @03:34PM (3 children)

    by CZB (6457) on Thursday October 05 2017, @03:34PM (#577472)

    Its never just a temporary shed to get through the season! But that's what you say at first. 40 years later, its packed full of stuff and you have to keep patching it because its too useful.

    But it is neat the module is working well so far.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 05 2017, @04:07PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday October 05 2017, @04:07PM (#577488) Journal

      I assume they could deorbit the module with some garbage and stuff still in it. Burn it all!

      Packed size is about 29% the volume of inflated size, although I don't know if they could fit anything in there while it's deflated.

      Options to keep it on the ISS for additional years? NASA may be renting BEAM.

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      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday October 05 2017, @09:08PM (1 child)

        by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday October 05 2017, @09:08PM (#577633) Journal

        AirBNB move over! SpaceBNB launching soon!

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 05 2017, @09:17PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday October 05 2017, @09:17PM (#577640) Journal

          From the linked Wikipedia:

          Bigelow plans to build a second BEAM module as an airlock for the Bigelow Commercial Space Station [wikipedia.org].

          The Bigelow Next-Generation Commercial Space Station is a private orbital space station currently under development by Bigelow Aerospace. The space station may be constructed of two B330 expandable spacecraft modules as well as a central docking node, propulsion, solar arrays, and attached crew capsules, though other possibilities like attaching a B330 to the International Space Station or flying a B330 alone have been suggested by Robert Bigelow.

          On 8 April 2016, NASA launched a Bigelow inflatable module and attached it to the ISS, where it will be tested for two years. Any independent Bigelow Commercial space station will have to await the development of commercially available human rated orbital spacecraft. The first of these is expected to be the SpaceX Dragon 2 in 2018.[1] Two B330 are expected to be ready by 2020 and a launch contract for one in 2020 has been signed.

          More at the bottom of the article, including using the same expandable modules on the surface of the Moon. Looks like the B330 will have over 10x the volume of BEAM (this source says 20x [geekwire.com]).

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