The future of spacecraft is to feature expandable systems. A project launched by Bigelow Aerospace in association with NASA for $17.8 on March 12 is the first example. It is dubbed as Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)
Since it is inflatable, the module is manufactured to expand like air mattresses; however, with a multi-layer, bulletproof, high-tech skin which Bigelow compares to a radial tire’s steel belts. When deployed completely, the BEAM will be able to provide a 3 meter by 4 meter room.
This new module, one day, could be utilized to substitute the Internation Space Station and could even be used as human’s first Moon habitat. These expandable segments can be linked together to come up with larger space, potentially establishing a space hotel’s building blocks.
Bill Gertenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said “This could be a very nice module potentially for the crews to go hang out in… It may become a very popular place,” the NBC News reported.
The habitat is to be launched into space while it’s folded up inside a space cover that is 5 feet by 7 feet in dimension. The space station’s Canadian-manufactured robotic arm will connect the BEAM to the ISS’s Tranquility node. Astronauts will then be able to load the habitat in a manner similar to expanding air mattresses.
” Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry,” the Bigelow Aerospace wrote on its official website.