In April of this year, NASA will send a new type of technology to the International Space Station; an inflatable module that would be perfect for long-term missions to the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else space agencies may want to send human beings.
The module, which is being called Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM for short, attaches to the International Space Station just like any other module, but because it’s inflatable, it takes up hardly any room on the rocket that will be taking it there.
As you can imagine, being efficient on storage space is a relatively important step in space travel, and this is precisely the reason that 3D printing is of big interest to space agencies that are looking to pack lightly.
BEAM is going up to the International Space Station on April 8th aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. While in its compact form, the BEAM measures about 7.8 feet by 5.7 feet, and when fully inflated, it will expand to a size of 12 feet by 10.5 feet, giving it an interior storage volume of 565 cubic feet.
There, a robotic arm will affix it to the side of the International Space Station and crews on the space station will monitor its effectiveness, measurements, and performance over time to see if it’s something we should pursue.
Because this expandable module technology is very much under-tested, bringing it to the International Space Station is a great choice for finding out whether or not something like this could be used long-term on another planet or spatial body for temporary habitation.
A video about the BEAM can be watched below: