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
- Bigelow Aerospace's Inflatable Habitat Ready for Space Station Trip on November 10, 2018 at 4:00 pm
According to Bigelow Aerospace, the demonstration of expandable space habitat technology supports NASA's plans in the realm of human spaceflight, which ultimately lead to putting boots on Mars. Develo... […]
- 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 dee... […]
- NASA picks six deep space habitat prototypes and studies on October 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Here’s a look at some of the designs. The Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement (XBASE) will be a 330-cubic-metre habitat with a test platform for deep space hardware. This model is designed ... […]
- 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 ... […]
- NASA's Expandable Fabric Space Habitat BEAM Hits a Snag on May 26, 2016 at 8:32 am
NASA's plan to inflate an expandable habitat for the first time in space hit a snag today when the room -- known ... The module is a key piece of technology that could be used on a future crewed missi... […]
- Bigelow’s station habitat to be expanded Thursday on May 25, 2016 at 10:40 pm
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is beginning a two-year test campaign at the International Space Station to prove the innovative habitat’s technology is compatible with the stringent ... […]
- NASA Details Game Plan to Deploy Expandable Fabric Space Habitat at Space Station on April 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm
ensuring there it doesn't pose any danger to the space station. "When we’re traveling to Mars or beyond, astronauts need habitats that are both durable and easy to transport and to set up. That’s wher... […]
- Expandable 'space tent' to be put through its paces on April 12, 2016 at 6:55 pm
The first expandable space habitat, that could one day be used as a sort of tent to house humans on Mars, will be installed this weekend on the International Space Station. The Bigelow Expandable Acti... […]
- The Hotel of the Future Might be an Inflatable Habitat…in Space on March 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is an experimental program developed with the help of NASA, which aims to test and to validate space habitat technology. With an expanded length of 4 mete... […]
- 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 ... […]
via Google News and Bing News