The new Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the Tranquility module of the International Space Station (ISS) has been fully expanded and pressurized, at the second attempt. The operation, completed on 28th May, followed an unsuccessful first attempt two days earlier.
After the module had been filled with air from inside the Station, pressurization began at 4:34 p.m. EDT, and the eight tanks filled with air completed full pressurization of the module 10 minutes later at 4:44 p.m. BEAM’s pressure will be equalized with that of the ISS, where it will remain attached for a two-year test period.
The module measured just over 7 feet long and just under 7.75 feet in diameter in its packed configuration. BEAM now measures more than 13 feet long and about 10.5 feet in diameter to create 565 cubic feet of habitable volume. It weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.
During the next week, leak checks will be performed on BEAM to ensure its structural integrity. Hatch opening and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ first entrance into BEAM will take place about one week after leak checks are complete.
Crews will routinely enter to take measurements and monitor its performance to help inform designs for future habitat systems. Learning how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeroids, and orbital debris will provide information to address key concerns about living in the harsh environment of space.
BEAM is co-sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division and Bigelow Aerospace.