Rubins Inspects Inside of BEAM Module

Kate Rubins inspects BEAM. (Credit: NASA)
Kate Rubins inspects BEAM. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins inspected the Bigelow Aerospace Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the International Space Station on Sept. 5, 2016. Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a spacecraft while providing greater volume for living and working in space once expanded.

It was the first checkup of BEAM since the initial inspection of the space station’s expanded node after it was deployed May 28. Rubins collected radiation monitors and sampled surfaces inside BEAM to assess the microbe environment. Her inspection revealed the module appeared in good condition, and the samples and radiation detectors were packed for return to Earth for analysis.

On Sept. 29, Rubins opened up and entered the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module again, and temporarily installed gear for a test to measure the loads and vibrations the module experiences. For the next two years, crew members will inspect the module every three months to check for stability.

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  • Robert G. Oler

    there should be an effort to do something useful with BEAM…to practice outfitting expandable modules

  • JamesG

    That would be too efficient and practical for Government work.

  • windbourne

    yes, but the idea is to find out how the inflatable will perform in orbit. Once you add cargo, things change a lot. As such, for at least the next year, if not both years, it makes sense to allow this to be untouched.
    I’m hoping that BA-330 will bring up an empty one in 2018 to replace BEAM and then start leasing it out for work, while outfitting it for habitat.

  • Paul451

    It’s full of sensors. They’re testing it for leaks, vibration (and potential vibration-dampening), normal outgasing, outgasing from radiation-induced breakdown of the wall material, all of which would be affected by anything else you put in it.

    (Are you sensing elevated VOCs from an unexpectedly rapid breakdown of wall material, or from those waste-bags you are storing in there, or from the rest of the station because you’re entering more often to store waste-bags?)

  • Robert G. Oler

    There are two big questions with inflatables…one is how durable they are on orbit and two is how much time/effort/etc it takes to outfit them…the latter is just as important with the former

  • windbourne

    well, first off, as far as inflatable lifespan, there are 2 small coffin size systems up there proving that they do just fine.
    Secondly, that is what BEAM is about as well. In fact, they are examining radiation, along with any potential out-gassing ( which BOTH are the real issue vs metal cans ).

    As to outfitting, I think that you are missing an important part here. The real systems (ba330 and ba2100) have a full truss core that runs down the middle. This allows for attaching all of the equipment to. IOW, this equipment will NOT be attached to the outside wall like the cans, but to the inside truss. It should have similar work volume that the metal cans have, while still providing loads of free space for the astronauts to move around in.
    The water will be stored along the wall in multiple small ‘tanks’ so that it will be safe, but also block the ionizing radation.

    Beam does not have a truss core so, it makes little sense to outfit it. IOW, it does not have the main part needed for hanging on equipment.

  • Vladislaw

    I thought it already was doing something very useful. Establishing all the baselines for Bigelow Aerospace can incorporate into the next one they dock to the ISS.

    1. Assess the microbe environment.

    2. Testing for radiation,

    3, Test to measure the loads and vibrations.

    It would be pretty hard to develop a baseline when you are constantly adding and taking equipment, and a lot of human traffic.

  • windbourne

    Im not sure how that would be testing loads and vibrations compared to the regular systems. That is basically an inflated balloon. OTOH, with the regular equipment, they will have a truss running down the core, which is really were the true loads/vibrations occur.

  • windbourne

    yeah, and unlike the metal cans, this is a REAL concern. The cans should not have outgassing of any real nature. But this material? Whole different critter.

  • Paul451

    there are 2 small coffin size systems up there proving that they do just fine.

    “Small coffin size”? 11m³?

  • windbourne

    good point.
    I thought it was smaller than that.
    Even has a 8′ diameter.

  • Paul451

    BEAM has four tensile members through the core, which serves the same structural purpose as the BA-330/etc truss core. Therefore measuring the vibration dampening qualities, vs Bigelow’s engineering models, will inform their subsequent development of BA-330.

  • windbourne

    i’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
    I MISSED that entirely.
    Good catch. That will be useful to see what numbers come back on that.
    Of course, I doubt that BA or NASA will share that.

  • Vladislaw

    I believe in another article the loads was electrical in nature, relating to all the stuff that is plugged into the ISS electrical network.