Station Gets Ready for BEAM Expansion

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module
BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is highlighted in its expanded configuration in this computer rendering.

The Expedition 47 crew is getting a new module recently attached to the Tranquility module ready for expansion later this week. The International Space Station residents are also running experiments today exploring a wide variety of phenomena and checking station gear.

BEAM, or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is scheduled to expand to full pressurized volume Thursday morning. In preparation, the crew is installing computer cables, checking connections and verifying hardware prior to BEAM deployment. NASA TV will televise the BEAM expansion activities live. Crew entry into the new module is scheduled for next week but will not be televised.

The Rodent Research-3 (RR-3) experiment was completed last week and the astronauts are cleaning up and inventorying the gear today. During the wrap up work, the crew also collected station air and astronaut breath samples for the Marrow bone study sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency.

Some of the station hardware that helps run and monitor equipment and experiments is getting new gear and upgrades. The Microgravity Science Glovebox, which housed the RR-3 activities last week, is being prepared for video equipment upgrades. A new laptop computer is being loaded with software to demonstrate control of station assets from both the orbital lab and the ground.

 

New Gear Readied for Advanced Space Science

BEAM Installation
Astronaut Tim Kopra tweeted this image of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module being transferred by the Canadarm2 robotic arm from the Space Dragon cargo craft to the Tranquility module for installation. Credit: @Astro_Tim

The International Space Station crew is getting the orbital laboratory ready this week for a wide variety of advanced space science. The station also received a new module that will be expanded in late May for two years of habitability tests.

The Expedition 47 crew members are starting the work week setting up hardware for a pair of experiments exploring space physics and human research. A specialized microscope was configured for a study researching how particles behave at nanoscales potentially improving drug delivery and filtration technologies. After hardware checkouts and tests, the crew will also study the linkage between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by long-term space missions.

The Electromagnetic Levitator, a facility that studies materials processing, will have a cable replaced and have its limit parameters reprogrammed. The Japanese Kibo laboratory module is being outfitted with new gear to extend its external research capability. The robotic installation work will enable payloads exposed to the vacuum of space to be moved and accessed with greater ease.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, BEAM, was successfully installed Saturday morning. Ground controllers operated the Canadarm2 robotic arm and extracted BEAM from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and installed it to the Tranquility module.

BEAM Successfully Installed to the International Space Station

Following extraction from Dragon, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was installed to the International Space Station at 5:36 a.m. EDT. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over the Southern Pacific Ocean. It will remain attached to station for two-year test period.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016.

NASA is investigating concepts for habitats that can keep astronauts healthy during space exploration. Expandable habitats are one such concept under consideration – they require less payload volume on the rocket than traditional rigid structures, and expand after being deployed in space to provide additional room for astronauts to live and work inside. BEAM will be the first test of such a module attached to the space station. It will allow investigators to gauge how well it performs overall, and how it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.

In late May, BEAM will be filled with air and expanded to its full size. Astronauts will enter BEAM on an occasional basis to conduct tests to validate the module’s overall performance and the capability of expandable habitats. After the testing period is completed, BEAM will be released from the space station to eventually burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.