ISS pump-up space podule refuses to engorge

Length and girth swell a deflating 'few inches'

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace earlier today scrubbed a first attempt to inflate the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) - the "human-rated expandable structure" which is clamped to the International Space Station (ISS) for a two-year test.

After "several hours of attempts to introduce air into the module" by ISS crew member Jeff Williams, BEAM had "only expanded a few inches in both length and diameter" before engineers retired to consider a "forward course of action".

The inflation of BEAM requires the ISS to be in sunlight, allowing a clear video feed of swelling or, in this case, non-engorgement. Accordingly, time constraints were also a factor in the decision to abort. NASA reckons a second attempt may be on the cards for tomorrow.

Once deployed, BEAM will be 4.01 metres in length, with a maximum diameter of 3.23 metres and a volume of 16m3.

Cut-away view of BEAM. Pic: Bigelow Aerospace

BEAM. Pic: Bigelow Aerospace

Astronauts will enter the habitat a several times a year to see how it's performing in the rigours of space. Bigelow's long-term aim is to build a large scale version of BEAM to "support zero-gravity research including scientific missions, manufacturing processes, a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars". ®

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