Astronaut Randy Bresnik enters BEAM

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik enters the BEAM module. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik enters the BEAM module. Photo Credit: NASA

Just days after arriving at the ISS, NASA astronaut and Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik got to visit the usually sealed-off BEAM module.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is a technology demonstrator designed to test the effectiveness of an "inflatable" habitat as an alternative or supplement to traditional rigid modules. Astronauts periodically enter the module to collect various data points such as temperature, radiation exposure, condensation, etc.

BEAM was launched to the outpost back in April 2016 aboard SpaceX's CRS-8 Dragon cargo mission. It was attached to the aft port of the Tranquility module before being expanded, or "inflated" in May 2016.

The module is expect to stay firmly attached to that location for a total of two years. Sometime in 2018, unless the small closet-sized room is permitted an extended stay, BEAM will be detached from its location using the robotic Canadarm2. It will then be jettisoned away from the station to burn up in the atmosphere.

According to NASA, BEAM could lead to the development of future expandable habitation structures for crews traveling beyond low-Earth orbit.

In fact, Bigelow Aerospace, which built BEAM, plans to use the technology for its own private space stations as early as the beginning of the next decade. The company has even offered to send a larger module called the Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement, or XBASE, to the ISS as part of the U.S. space agency's second phase of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP.

XBASE, based on the company's B330 spacecraft design, would have 330 cubic feet of livable volume and be used as test module to advance approaches to deep space missions and serve as a staging point for commercial space stations in low-Earth orbit.


Derek Richardson

I am a space geek who loves to write about space.

My passion for space ignited when I watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on October 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, I soon realized that my true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Currently, I am a senior at Washburn University studying Mass Media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism. In addition to running Orbital Velocity, I write for the Washburn Review and am the Managing Editor for SpaceFlight Insider.