May 26, 2016 – Efforts to expand the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) were terminated for the day after several hours of attempts to introduce air into the module. Flight controllers informed NASA astronaut Jeff Williams that BEAM had only expanded a few inches in both length and diameter at the time the operation ceased for the day.
NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are working closely to understand why the module did not fully expand as planned. Engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss a path forward and are evaluating data from the expansion that has occurred thus far. If the data supports a resumption of operations, another attempt could be made.
The BEAM project is sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program, which pioneers innovative approaches to rapidly and affordably develop prototype systems for future human exploration missions. The BEAM demonstration supports an AES objective to develop a deep space habitat for human missions beyond Earth orbit. As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability.
Expandable habitats require less payload volume on a rocket than traditional rigid structures, and expand after being deployed in space to potentially provide a comfortable area for astronauts to live and work inside.