NASA formally announced today a newly planned addition to the International Space Station – the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM).
The partnership to attach BEAM to the ISS involves the space agency and the private company, Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada – made possible by a $17.8 million contract to test expandable space habitat technology.
The BEAM is slated to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the ISS, already contracted by NASA, and currently planned for 2015.
The two-year technology demonstration of BEAM would be underway after installation at Node 3 on the ISS, on the aft port of the Tranquility node.
Details of the joint effort were discussed today at a press briefing, featuring NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. “NASA’s partnership with Bigelow opens a new chapter in our continuing work to bring the innovation of industry to space, heralding cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably,” she noted.
Deep space habitat
“The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability,” Gerstenmaier said in a NASA press statement. “Using the station’s resources, we’ll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory,” he said.
The BEAM project is sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program, which pioneers innovative approaches to rapidly and affordably develop prototype systems for future human exploration missions.
The BEAM demonstration supports an AES objective to develop a deep space habitat for human missions beyond Earth orbit.
By Leonard David