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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BEAM Closed as Crew Packs Spacecraft for Departure

Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. (Credit: NASA TV)
Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — BEAM’s hatches have been closed completing crew operations for the month. Meanwhile, a pair of spaceships is also being packed for departure this month.

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Astronaut Enters BEAM

Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. (Credit: NASA TV)
Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module’s (BEAM) hatch was opened up for the first time today. Astronaut Jeff Williams entered BEAM and checked sensors, installed air ducts and reported back to Earth that it was in pristine condition. After Williams completed the BEAM checks he exited and closed the hatch for the day.

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Astronauts to Enter BEAM on Monday

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

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — On Monday, June 6, astronaut Jeff Williams will enter the first human-rated expandable module deployed in space, a technology demonstration to investigate the potential challenges and benefits of expandable habitats for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications.

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ISS Update: BEAM Leak Checks While New Crew Preps for Launch

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

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The week’s final set of CubeSats were deployed Wednesday night as the new BEAM goes through a series of leak checks before next week’s entry. Back inside the orbital lab, the six-member Expedition 47 crew conducted advanced space research sponsored by private and public institutions.

A final pair of CubeSats was deployed outside the Kibo lab module Wednesday wrapping up the week’s deployment activities. Since Monday, a total of 16 Dove satellites were released into orbit from a small satellite deployer attached to Kibo. The CubeSats will observe the Earth’s environment helping disaster relief efforts and improving agricultural yields.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) environment continues to be equalized with that of the rest of the International Space Station. Astronaut Jeff Williams is continuing to install components on the BEAM bulkhead and vestibule area before entering the new expandable module early next week.

The rest of the crew explored human research to improve astronaut health on long space journeys possibly benefitting humans on Earth too. Back on Earth, three new Expedition 48-49 crew members, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin and Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi, are in Russia counting down to a June 24 launch to the space station.

BEAM Expansion Time Lapse

Video Caption: This short time-lapse video shows the complete Bigelow Aerospace BEAM expansion from start to finish to its full expanded, pressurized volume on Saturday, April 28. BEAM was installed April 16 on the Tranquility module after being delivered aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

BEAM Fully Expanded & Pressurized

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

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams successfully expanded and pressurized Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM module today. It was a long procedure that took more than 7.5 hours. The module will now go through an 80-hour leak check and other tests before astronauts enter it for the first time in about a week.

 

BEAM Expansion Underway

Credit: NASA TV
Credit: NASA TV

Bigelow’s BEAM module is being expanded this morning on the International Space Station. It’s an extremely slow process that’s now been going on for about 3.5 hours, but it seems to be progressing well.

BEAM is being expanded using air from the space station. It will then be pressurized using tanks on board the module.

NASA to Attempt BEAM Inflation on Saturday

BEAM attached to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
BEAM attached to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace had a press conference this afternoon about the failed effort to fully expand the BEAM module attached to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday.
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NASA TV to Provide Live Coverage of BEAM Expansion

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) will be deployed to its full size Thursday, May 26, and begin its two-year technology demonstration attached to the International Space Station. NASA Television will provide coverage of the expansion beginning at 5:30 a.m. EDT.

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Mike Gold Leaves Bigelow for Space Systems Loral

space_systems_loralMike Gold has left Bigelow Aerospace to become vice president of Washington, DC, operations for Space Systems Loral (SSL). Gold has served in a similar role for Bigelow Aerospace since 2003.

“Expanding our DC-Area office demonstrates our commitment to further build on the work we are doing with US government agencies,” said SSL President John Celli. “Michael Gold brings a wealth of experience with both civil and defense organizations and will strengthen our ability to make a contribution to government programs.”

Here’s the press release:

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 9, 2016 — Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that Michael Gold has assumed the role of Vice President, Washington, DC Operations at SSL. Mr. Gold, who previously served as Director of D.C. Operations and Business Growth at Bigelow Aerospace, will expand SSL’s Washington, D.C. presence to support the company’s increasing U.S. government business.

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BEAM Attached to International Space Station

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is attached to the International Space Station early on April 16, 2016. (Credit: NASA)

Following extraction from Dragon, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was installed to the International Space Station at 5:36 a.m. EDT. At the time of installation, the space station was flying over the Southern Pacific Ocean. It will remain attached to station for two-year test period.

NASA is investigating concepts for habitats that can keep astronauts healthy during space exploration. Expandable habitats are one such concept under consideration – they require less payload volume on the rocket than traditional rigid structures, and expand after being deployed in space to provide additional room for astronauts to live and work inside. BEAM will be the first test of such a module attached to the space station. It will allow investigators to gauge how well it performs overall, and how it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.

In late May, BEAM will be filled with air and expanded to its full size. Astronauts will enter BEAM on an occasional basis to conduct tests to validate the module’s overall performance and the capability of expandable habitats. After the testing period is completed, BEAM will be released from the space station to eventually burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere.

ULA & Bigelow to Announce New Partnership on Monday

Bigelow_Alpha_ Station
Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow and ULA CEO Tory Bruno to Address Media at 4 p.m. MT

What: Media are invited to participate in a news conference on Monday, April 11, at 4 p.m. MT, during which Bigelow Aerospace Founder and President Robert Bigelow and United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno will announce a new partnership.

Since 1999 Bigelow Aerospace’s mission has been to provide affordable destinations for national space agencies and corporate clients. In 2006 and 2007, the company launched orbiting prototypes Genesis I and Genesis II. Bigelow Aerospace seeks to assist human exploration and the discovery of beneficial resources, whether in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the moon, in deep space or on Mars.

ULA is the nation’s premier launch services company and is transforming the future of space launch through its innovative new rocket and technology, while significantly reduce the cost of launch services. This partnership will continue making space more accessible for the future.

Where: The news conference will take place at the 32nd Space Symposium, which is held at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Media currently registered for the Symposium are invited to attend in person. The press conference will be held on the second floor of the International Center in the Media Center.

Remote participants are invited to watch via webcast: http://www.ulalaunch.com

Background on BEAM

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is an expandable habitat technology demonstration for the International Space Station. Expandable habitats greatly decrease the amount of transport volume for future space missions.

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