Space module puffs up like a bag of popcorn

Image: BEAM

A camera on the International Space Station shows the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, after inflation. (Credit: NASA TV)

It took almost eight hours, but NASA accomplished the first expansion of a pop-up module at the International Space Station today, by inflating the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM.

BEAM was built for NASA by Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace under the terms of a $17.8 million contract. It was sent up to the station last month in the unpressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule. In its folded-up form, the cylinder-shaped module measures only 7 feet long, but when it’s pressurized with air, it can grow to twice its size.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams started the job of filling BEAM with air on Thursday, but it was tough going: The module grew by only a few inches before NASA had to call off the operation for the day.

Mission managers surmised that the reinforced fabric on BEAM’s exterior had gotten stiff during prolonged storage. That led to “increased friction between the various layers … which is possibly causing this whole expansion process to just unfold a little bit slower than all of the initial predictions,” NASA spokesman Dan Huot said.

NASA let the fabric relax on Friday. Today, the pace was just as slow as it was two days earlier, but steadier.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
This entry was posted in GeekWire and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s