Sunday, May 29, 2016
Photos and Video of the Day: BEAM Opens Up in the Heavens...
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Just thought I'd share these pics and a video showing the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) as it successfully deployed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams spent about seven hours repeatedly opening and closing a pressure valve that allowed air to seep from the Tranquility module into the experimental space habitat to expand it. BEAM was originally supposed to take 45 minutes to inflate, but difficulties that Williams ran into last Thursday (due to over-pressure after the module's multiple fabric layers refused to separate as a result of being stuck on the ground for 15 months...a consequence caused by SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch mishap in June of 2015) prevented him from continuing the operation that day. NASA decided on Friday to hold off on resuming BEAM activities till yesterday morning.
With BEAM now expanded to its full size, NASA will wait a week before giving ISS crew members authorization to venture into the module for the first time and begin installing sensors inside the inflatable compartment. BEAM will stay attached to the orbital outpost for two years before being detached from the station via robotic arm and released into space. BEAM will orbit the Earth for a few months before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up.
The video below shows sped-up footage of BEAM inflating in the vacuum of space. Amazing stuff!