After failing its first attempt, NASA will try once again to deploy its first expandable habitat. The space agency will start inflating the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) on Saturday morning, starting at 9AM ET. You can watch the event live on NASA TV.
Astronauts will enter it three to four times a year
NASA’s first attempt had to be stopped on Thursday because the habitat hit some higher-than-expected internal forces during manual expansion. But the space agency has now refined its models and officials say that they expect to see the habitat expand fully.
The BEAM’s design is intended to give astronauts a bit more room aboard the ISS. But that won’t happen just yet. First, the BEAM has to be tested out to see how it holds up in space. Because NASA doesn’t know if the habitat is safe yet, astronauts will only enter it about three to four times a year, for a period of two years. And each time they do, they’ll gather data that will be used to assess its conditions.
The expandable habitat’s main advantage is its size and weight. When it’s deflated, it’s only 7 feet long and 7.7 feet in diameter. But once deployed, the habitat will be 13 feet long and 10.6 feet in diameter. And at 3,000 pounds, the BEAM weighs about 23,000 pounds less than the metal Unity module on the ISS.
If the data that astronauts gather demonstrates that the BEAM can protect against solar radiation, space debris, and extreme temperatures, it could eventually allow for the development of private space hotels.