The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is an inflatable habitat made of advanced materials that can withstand impacts in space. It has a thick outer layer that is tough enough to protect the craft and crew from space radiation.
The BEAM will be transported into space as an 8-foot bundle. After it is inflated, it will be large enough to hold a car. When it expands to its full size, the BEAM will measure 12 feet long and 10 feet wide.
When it arrives at the International Space Station, the space station’s robotic arm will remove the BEAM from an unpressurized compartment. The BEAM will be the first of Bigelow’s space habitats that astronauts on the ISS will be able to enter. The hatch will be closed when astronauts are not using the BEAM. The crew of the ISS will not live in the BEAM because it will be too experimental and risky.
The module will function like an additional room added to the rest of the International Space Station. It will have a slightly cooler temperature. When it expands, there will be some slight condensation.
This will be Bigelow’s fifth berthing with the International Space Station. It will be the fourth with NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Similar operations are planned for the future.
The environment in the BEAM will generally work in the same way as the environment on the ISS. If the BEAM is successful, it will prove that inflatable habitats can work in space.
Bigelow licensed inflatable space habitat technology from NASA after Congress canceled TransHub, an expandable habitat project, in 2000. It is easier to transport inflatable habitats into space than other parts of the ISS, which need to be transported one piece at a time.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule will transport fungi specimens to the International Space Station. The capsule is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 8.