NASA Extends BEAM Time on ISS

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, known as BEAM, will remain attached to the International Space Station to provide additional performance data on expandable habitat technologies and enable new technology demonstrations. NASA awarded a sole-source contract to Bigelow Aerospace to support extension of the life of the privately-owned module, and its use to stow spare space station hardware.

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BEAM Work and Vision Checks for Crew Today

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.

Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Commander Randy Bresnik was back inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today with Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Joe Acaba. The astronauts are converting the experimental habitat into a cargo platform by replacing old BEAM hardware with new electronics and stowage gear.

Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.

A Look Inside Bigelow’s BEAM Module on the ISS

BEAM module interior (Credit; NASA)

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik looks through the hatch of the International Space Station’s Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) on July 31, 2017. He shared this photo on social media on August 2, commenting, “Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft? Well, this is it.  First time inside the expandable BEAM module.”

The BEAM is an experimental expandable module launched to the station aboard SpaceX’s eighth commercial resupply mission on April 8, 2016, and fully expanded and pressurized on May 28.  Expandable modules weigh less and take up less room on a rocket than a traditional module, while allowing additional space for living and working. They provide protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, and other contaminants. Crews traveling to the moon, Mars, asteroids, or other destinations may be able to use them as habitable structures.

The BEAM is just over halfway into its planned two-year demonstration on the space station. NASA and Bigelow are currently focusing 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.

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First Year of BEAM Demo Offers Valuable Data on Expandable Habitats

Astronauts aboard the space station 3-D printed a shield to cover one of the two Radiation Environment Monitors inside the BEAM. The shield, the white hemispherical shape at the center of the photograph, is shown above inside the BEAM module. In the coming months, the crew will print successively thicker shields to determine the shielding effectiveness at blocking radiation. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — 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.

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BEAM Opens for Tests, Crew Checks Body Shape

Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are pictured inside BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Pesquet is also wearing the experimental SkinSuit. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — BEAM was opened for a short time Thursday so the crew could install sensors inside the expandable module. The Expedition 50 space residents also explored how the body changes shape and how to prevent back pain during long-term missions.

BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, had its hatches opened temporarily so astronaut Peggy Whitson could install temporary sensors and perform a modal test, which has the astronaut use their fist to impart loads on the module. The sensors are measuring the resulting vibrations and how the module holds up to impacts. BEAM is an expandable habitat technology demonstration, which is a lower-mass and lower-volume system than metal habitats and can increase the efficiency of cargo shipments, possibly reducing the number of launches needed and overall mission costs.

Whitson also joined Commander Shane Kimbrough for body measurements to help NASA understand how living in space changes an astronaut’s physical characteristics. The duo collected video and imagery and measured chest, waist, hip arms and legs to help researchers learn how physical changes impact suit sizing.

An experimental suit called the SkinSuit is being studied for its ability to offset the effects of microgravity and prevent lower back pain and the stretching of the spine. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet wore the SkinSuit today and documented his comfort, range of motion and other aspects of the suit.

Bigelow’s BEAM Could Stay on ISS Longer, See Greater Use

BEAM was attached to the International Space Station (ISS) last year for a two-year test of inflatable module technology. At present, it’s not being used by the crew, but the company’s Tweet hints at possible uses and a longer mission.
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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

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The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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NASA’s Exploration Year in Review

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”
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BEAM Update: Expandable Habitat Reveals Important Early Performance Data

Crew inside BEAM. (Credit: NASA)
Crew inside BEAM. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Just five months into its two-year demonstration mission on the International Space Station, the first human-rated expandable habitat in low-Earth orbit is already returning valuable information about expandable technology performance and operations in space. Developed through a public-private partnership between NASA and Bigelow Aerospace, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) launched to the station April 8, 2016, in the “trunk” of the Dragon capsule during the eighth SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission.

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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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NASA to Move Ahead With Adding Private Modules, Capabilities to Space Station

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

NASA will move ahead with an initiative that will allow private companies to attach commercial modules and other technologies to the International Space Station, officials announced today.

In a post on the NASA and White House websites, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren said the private sector had responded strongly to a space agency request for information (RFI) issued earlier this year offering the station for a variety of commercial uses.
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Astronauts Open BEAM for Tests

BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)
BEAM module (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — BEAM, the new expandable module attached to the International Space Station, was opened up today for tests and equipment checks. The Expedition 49 crew also explored eating right in space, adapting to new technology and studied a variety of other life science and physics research.

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Getting to Upmass: A Dragon’s Tale

A Station that Needs Everything
A Scrappy Startup Contracted to Ship 35.4 Metric Tons of It
Ought to be Easy Enough, Right?

SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX Dragon freighter at ISS. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The International Space Station (ISS) is not exactly a self-sufficient outpost. The station’s occupants can’t jump into a Soyuz and pop over to an orbiting Wal-Mart when they run out of food, water or toothpaste. Everything the six astronauts need to survive — save for the random plastic wrench or replacement part they can now 3-D print — must be shipped up from the majestic blue planet 400 km below them.

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