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Advanced Exploration Systems Division

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module Project (BEAM)

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) project is a NASA-industry partnership with Bigelow Aerospace (BA) that has developing the first human-rated expandable (also called "inflatable") space habitat for demonstration on the International Space Station (ISS). The partnership offers NASA substantial cost savings for technology development and for future exploration missions that could use commercially-provided expandable structures and habitats.

The BEAM project advances expandable habitat technology by conducting a flight demonstration of a commercially-designed expandable system to achieve Technology Readiness Level 9.0. The primary performance requirement is to demonstrate that the BEAM can successfully launch and berth to the ISS, deploy and expand, and maintain long-term pressure without leakage. The leak performance is defined as both short-term, immediately after deployment, and long-term, for the balance of the mission.

BEAM was successfully launched on SpaceX CRS-8 (April 8, 2016), berthed to ISS Node 3 Aft and pressurized on May 28 2016.  BEAM successfully completed leak testing and the first crew ingress was June 6, 2016.  BEAM has been functioning as expected and the ISS Program Office is looking at utilizing BEAM as a stowage module and extending the mission life beyond the initial 2-year certified life.

The demonstration consists of the following critical technology objectives:

- Launch of a packed expandable structure in a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) launch vehicle
- Safe deployment (expansion) on ISS
- Passive air exchange with ISS and an environment inside the BEAM supporting periodic, temporary ingress by the ISS crew
- Measure deployment loads during expansion of the BEAM on ISS
- Determine radiation protection capability of an expandable structure in low-Earth orbit and demonstrate the performance of advanced active radiation sensors on ISS
- Long-term structural performance of expandable shell after exposure to atomic oxygen, vacuum, radiation, and thermal cycling
- Demonstrate performance of structural health monitoring systems
- Measure long-term leak performance of expandable bladder and bladder joints after launch and deployment cycle
- Develop structural and mechanical system requirements for a human-rated expandable module in an external orbital environment and successfully verify those requirements.
- Develop crew restraints and mobility aids for Intravehicular Activity (IVA) inside an expandable module.
- Develop and implement "housekeeping" procedures for internal surfaces of an expandable module.

In addition, under the current plan, BEAM will demonstrate jettisoning of a large expandable structure from ISS at end of mission or during a contingency depressurization. Typically, ISS payloads are disposed with the returning cargo vehicle at the end of the payload mission. BEAM will provide the first demonstration of robotic jettison of a large 3K lbs (1380 kg) structure from ISS.

For more information, see the following links below:

BEAM Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Project Overview

https://www.nasa.gov/content/bigelow-expandable-activity-module

BEAM First Year On-Orbit (May 26, 2017)

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/first-year-of-beam-demo-offers-valuable-data-on-expandable-habitats

BEAM Stowage Utilization and Life Extension (October 2, 2017)

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-may-extend-beam-s-time-on-the-international-space-station

BEAM Facts, Figures, FAQs (July 17, 2017)

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/beam-facts-figures-faqs

BEAM Overview (March 12, 2015)

https://www.nasa.gov/content/new-expandable-addition-on-space-station-to-gather-critical-data-for-future-space-habitat

 

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