Extending a wall or knocking down a beam in your home requires a team of contractors, architects, and the required paperwork depending on where you live. What if you want to do the same in space? You can’t exactly send Bruce Willis and his team of hardknocks to add a room to the International Space Station (ISS). Luckily, there’s a much more practical solution.
NASA on Wednesday unveiled the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), a small inflatable room that will test the thermal, structural, and longterm durability of these modules in space. The plan is to keep BEAM attached to the ISS for two years, in which astronauts aboard the space station will conduct a series of tests.
Following the two-year testing period, BEAM will then be robotically jettisoned from the ISS, leaving orbit to burn during its descent through Earth’s atmosphere, NASA said.
NASA is particularly interested in these inflatable capsules because they’re lightweight and require minimal payload. Additionally, NASA said they provide protection from solar and cosmic radiation, debris, and other elements of space, making them ideal for long-duration flights.
SpaceX will carry the expandable habitat to the space station on April 8, where the capsule will then be attached to the ISS. Once that’s successful, BEAM will be inflated, a process that should take about 45 minutes.