Halfway into its planned two-year demonstration attached to the International Space Station, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is showing that soft materials can perform as well as rigid materials for habitation volumes in space.
The BEAM was launched and attached to station through a partnership between NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division (AES) and Bigelow Aerospace, headquartered in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
NASA and Bigelow are primarily evaluating characteristics directly related to the module’s ability to protect humans from the harsh space environment. Astronauts aboard station work with researchers on the ground to monitor the module’s structural integrity, thermal stability, and resistance to space debris, radiation, and microbial growth.
Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, continually analyze data from internal sensors designed to monitor and locate external impacts by orbital debris, and, as expected, have recorded a few probable micrometeoroid debris impacts so far. BEAM has performed as designed in preventing debris penetration with multiple outer protective layers exceeding space station shielding requirements.
Over the next several months, NASA and Bigelow will focus on measuring radiation dosage inside the BEAM. Using two active Radiation Environment Monitors (REM) inside the module, researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are able to take real-time measurements of radiation levels. They have found that Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) dose rates inside the BEAM are similar to other space station modules, and continue to analyze contributions to the daily dose from the Earth’s trapped radiation belts to better understand the shielding properties of the module for application to long-term missions. The space station and the BEAM enjoy a significant amount of protection from Earth’s magnetosphere. Future deep space missions will be far more exposed to energized radiation particles speeding through the solar system, so NASA is actively working on ways to mitigate the effects of radiation events.
In late April, NASA’s radiation researchers at Johnson began a multi-month BEAM radiation experiment by installing a .04 inch (1.1 mm) thick shield onto one of the two REM sensors in BEAM. The station crew produced a hemispherical shield using the 3-D printer on the space station, and in the next few months this first shield will be replaced by two successively thicker shields, also 3-D printed, with thicknesses of about .13 inches (3.3mm) and .4 inches (10mm), respectively. The difference in measurements from the two REMs—one with a shield and one without—will help better resolve the energy spectra of the trapped radiation particles, particularly those coming from the South Atlantic Anomaly.
Space station crew members have entered the BEAM nine times since its expansion in May 2016. In addition to the REM shielding experiment activities, the crew has swapped out passive radiation badges called Radiation Area Monitors and they routinely collect microbial air and surface samples. These badges and samples are sent back to Earth for standard microbial and radiation analysis at Johnson.
The BEAM technology demonstration is helping NASA to advance and learn about expandable space habitat technology in low-Earth orbit for application toward future human exploration missions. The partnership between NASA and Bigelow supports NASA’s objective to develop a deep space habitat for human missions beyond Earth orbit while fostering commercial capabilities for non-government applications.
The Latest on: Expandable space habitat technology
After six months in orbit, that space inflatable habitat is holding up well
on November 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm
NASA, too, is interested in the technology for exploration purposes. Bigelow has proposed a much larger 330-cubic-meter expandable module as an option for the space agency as it seeks to develop a deep space habitat near the Moon in the 2020s. It is among ... […]
First Expandable Space Habitat is 'Cold," Astronaut Jeff Williams Says
on June 8, 2016 at 12:39 am
The journey to install and operate the first expandable habitat in space is no easy feat ... NASA and Bigelow aerospace are seriously looking at developing this technology for future deep space explorations including the mission to Mars. […]
NASA astronaut to step into expandable space habitat
on June 4, 2016 at 5:38 am
Washington: NASA astronaut Jeff Williams on Monday will enter the first human-rated expandable habitat deployed in space, a technology that could prove beneficial for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications, the US space agency said. […]
NASA astronaut to step into expandable space habitat on Monday
on June 4, 2016 at 2:04 am
Washington, June 4 (IANS) NASA astronaut Jeff Williams on Monday will enter the first human-rated expandable habitat deployed in space, a technology that could prove beneficial for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications ... […]
NASA expandable BEAM habitat inflation successful
on May 29, 2016 at 6:21 am
(CNN) — NASA successfully inflated its first expandable space habitat Saturday and now it’s almost ready ... As NASA prepares for its journey to Mars in the 2030s, it’s looking for new technology that will help humans go to places they’ve never ... […]
NASA's Expandable Fabric Space Habitat BEAM Hits a Snag
on May 26, 2016 at 4:20 am
NASA's plan to inflate an expandable habitat ... expandable technology comes in," a NASA blog post explained. The idea was first conceptualized by NASA in the 1990s and was built by Bigelow Aerospace. If the BEAM module at the International Space Station ... […]
Expandable habitats may take us to Mars
on May 5, 2016 at 2:45 am
In sci-fi movies, space habitats are huge structures with labyrinth layouts ... A long road NASA was into the benefits of expandable technology long before Bigelow arrived on the space scene. Echo 1, an inflatable device, launched in 1960. […]
SpaceX is launching an inflatable space habitat
on March 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm
Bigelow originally licensed inflatable habitat technology from NASA after Congress cancelled their expandable habitat project known as TransHab in 2000. However, the concept of space-based inflatables dates back to the early 60’s. In fact, NASA’s first ... […]
via Google News and Bing News