NASA successfully deploys BEAM, first inflatable room attached to ISS

US space agency NASA successfully deployed the first experimental inflatable room attached to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams began introducing air into the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. In total, Williams opened the air valve 25 times for a total time of 2 minutes and 27 seconds to add air to the module in short bursts as flight controllers carefully monitored the its internal pressure.

The 1,400 kg Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was built by Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace under a $17 million NASA contract. When manual operations ended, the module added 1.5 metres in length to reach 1.7 metres beyond its packed configuration and an internal diameter of 3.2 metres.

Then, Williams opened eight tanks of air stored within the BEAM, pressurising the module into full size — more than 4 metres long and about 3.2 metres in diameter with 16 cubic metres of interior volume, NASA said.

The leak checks will be performed on the BEAM to ensure its structural integrity. BEAM was launched to the orbiting lab last month in an effort to test and validate expandable habitat technology. Inflatable habitats are designed to take up less room on a spacecraft, but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded, according to NASA.

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