The newest module for the International Space Station (ISS) – first new module since 2011 – was fully expanded and pressurized this weekend, as ISS flew over the south Pacific at an altitude of 252 miles (405 km). The team managed to get the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) fully inflated late in the day on May 28, 2016, on the second try in three days. It was nearly a seven-and-a-half hour operation to inflate the module. During this time, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams slowly fed air into the module while being monitored by mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The short timelapse video above shows the complete BEAM expansion from start to finish. BEAM was installed April 16 on the Tranquility module after being delivered aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.
Many compared the sound of module expanding to the sound of corn popping …
"Infrequent, random pops" … #BEAM really is a Jiffy-Pop space module, isn't it?
— Alan Boyle (@b0yle) May 28, 2016
BEAM is a technology demonstration from which we will learn more about how these types of habitats will perform in a microgravity environment. It will remain attached to station for a two-year test period.
Congrats to all involved!
Bottom line: The International Space Station now has a new, fully inflated, expandable module called BEAM.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.