BEAM Open for the First Time

BEAM First Ingress
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams floats in front of the entrance to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams opened the hatch to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) at 4:47 a.m. EDT Monday, June 6. Along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, Williams entered BEAM for the first time to collect an air sample and begin downloading data from sensors on the dynamics of BEAM’s expansion. Williams told flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston that BEAM looked “pristine” and said it was cold inside, but that there was no evidence of any condensation on its inner surfaces.

Additional ingress opportunities to deploy other sensors and equipment in BEAM are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The hatch to BEAM will be closed after each entry.

Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston expanded the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) by filling it with air during more than seven hours of operations Saturday, May 28. The BEAM launched April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and was attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility module about a week later.

The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. The BEAM, which Bigelow Aerospace developed and built, is co-sponsored by Bigelow and NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.

BEAM Leak Checks While New Crew Preps for Launch

Expedition 48-49 Crew Members
Expedition 48-49 crew members were in Star City, Russia, participating in final qualification exams inside a Soyuz simulator last week. From left are Takuya Onishi, Anatoly Ivanishin and Kate Rubins

The week’s final set of CubeSats were deployed Wednesday night as the new BEAM goes through a series of leak checks before next week’s entry. Back inside the orbital lab, the six-member Expedition 47 crew conducted advanced space research sponsored by private and public institutions.

A final pair of CubeSats was deployed outside the Kibo lab module Wednesday wrapping up the week’s deployment activities. Since Monday, a total of 16 Dove satellites were released into orbit from a small satellite deployer attached to Kibo. The CubeSats will observe the Earth’s environment helping disaster relief efforts and improving agricultural yields.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) environment continues to be equalized with that of the rest of the International Space Station. Astronaut Jeff Williams is continuing to install components on the BEAM bulkhead and vestibule area before entering the new expandable module early next week.

The rest of the crew explored human research to improve astronaut health on long space journeys possibly benefitting humans on Earth too. Back on Earth, three new Expedition 48-49 crew members, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi, are in Russia counting down to a June 24 launch to the space station.

Earth Monitoring CubeSats Released

CubeSat Deployed
A CubeSat is deployed April 27 from a deployer on the outside of Kibo lab module.

More CubeSats are due to be deployed today contributing to humanitarian and environmental research. The crew is also continuing biomedical science to improve the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

The final set of CubeSats will be released tonight from a small satellite deployer outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. This current fleet of 16 CubeSats, also known as Dove satellites, began deploying Monday and will monitor the Earth to help improve disaster relief and agriculture yields.

The crew is exploring new space exercise techniques today to keep muscles, bones and the heart healthy during long-duration missions. The crew is also tracking its medication intake to determine the effectiveness and any side effects of using medicine in space.

BEAM, or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is still undergoing temperature and pressure checks while some relief valves and ventilation valves are being swapped out. Astronaut Jeff Williams will enter BEAM for the first time next week to install sensors measuring the expandable module’s environment.