Spaceflight Insider

‘BEAM me up SpaceX!’ Bigelow’s prototype habitat loaded onto CRS-8 Dragon

Bigelow Aerospace BEAM experiment integrated into CRS 8 Dragon trunk SpaceX photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider - Copy

When installed and inflated, the BEAM experiment should provide as much as 16 cubic meters of space to the ISS. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was loaded into the non-pressurized trunk of a SpaceX Dragon at Kennedy Space Center this week, in preparations for the launch of the CRS-8 mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 on April 8, 2016. It will be the tenth flight for a Dragon cargo spacecraft and the eighth flight under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with SpaceX.

Bigelow Aerospace BEAM module which will be attached to the International Space Station. Image Credit Bigelow posted on SpaceFlight Insider

BEAM. Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace / NASA

The BEAM will be transported to the International Space Station, where the station’s robotic arm will pull the BEAM out of the Dragon’s trunk and attach it to the station’s Tranquility module.

As was noted on Space News, when fully inflated, the BEAM will provide 16 cubic meters of additional volume for the station. But that doesn’t mean NASA will start using inflatable habitats right away – they still need to be tested. BEAM will undergo testing at the ISS for a minimum of two years to see how much radiation and micrometeorite protection it provides.

Besides BEAM, CRS-8 is also planning on sending up a few additional research experiments to study antibodies and protein crystal growth in microgravity.

When it launches, the flight of the CRS-8 Dragon will mark the first time that the spacecraft has been launched since the June 28, 2015, loss of the CRS-7 Dragon and the Falcon 9 v1.1 booster that launched it.

It was determined that a strut within the Falcon 9’s second stage had failed, allowing a helium tank to break loose causing an ‘over-pressure’ event.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has acquired an impressive track record. Twenty-one of the 22 flights of the rocket have successfully completed the primary objectives, and of those flights 20 out of 22 were completely successful.

NASA is hoping that inflatable habitats will be able to enable the space agency’s deep space exploration ambitions.

“The world of low-Earth orbit belongs to industry. You need to understand where we’re going. A Bigelow module may be the next thing that begins to replace some of the functions of the International Space Station. Low-Earth orbit infrastructure belongs to industry… If we don’t have a viable, vibrant low-Earth orbit infrastructure supported by them [commercial industry], we’re not getting there [Mars],” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in January of 2015.

Video courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center


Eric Shear is a recent graduate from York University, honors bachelor in space science. Before that, Shear studied mechanical engineering at Tacoma Community College. During this time, Shear helped develop the HYDROS water-electrolysis propulsion system at Tethers Unlimited and led a microgravity experiment on the Weightless Wonder parabolic aircraft. Shear has worked for an extended period of time to both enable and promote space flight awareness. Shear agreed to contribute to SpaceFlight Insider’s efforts so that he could provide extra insight into interplanetary missions, both past and present.

Reader Comments

This seems to be another case of risk aversion by NASA. Bigelow have had 2 demo expandables operating in space for the last several years Genisis I and II fully instrumented and yet here we go again, effectively repeating the same trials. Seems like it’s a case of ‘we didn’t design or build it so we don’t trust it’ syndrome.
Why not just go straight to a BA330, fit it out and help Bigelow fly and test it as a free-flying station. After all, NASA has consistently stated that they won’t be building or flying another LEO station.

I gotta give NASA credit on this one. They sure didn’t have to do this, and Bigelow isn’t complaining. At some point the hab would have to be human-rated, and having NASA’s seal of approval is a helluva endorsement.

Er, in order to attach to the ISS and have astronauts inside BEAM means that it is already ‘human rated’ so no, nothing extra being achieved by this little exercise other than what I already stated.

anthony barbuto

Nasa is a waste of our time and our tax money. After Apollo, Nasa had two failures in a row…the Shuttle to no where and now the ISS. Their plans for “future manned space travel” are a joke. Instead of a Mars Direct Mission, as conceived and explained by Dr Zubrin of the Mars Society, The Nasa plan to Mars involves years of wasted time/money on going to the Moons of Mars,…looking for landing sites, then making short visits to the surface. This waste of time will cost 20-30 years MORE since Apollo and hundreds of billions of dollars…..and you still don’t have colonists on Mars…this is all the pre emptive work!!! If man is to leave earth and colonize Mars…in ten years and for $20 billion…then support Commercial Space efforts, not the bloated, inefficient Nasa….

Bigelow and SpaceX are the two companies I feel are making the biggest changes to human spaceflight. Cost has always been the biggest factor in human space exploration. Now that costs are coming down it will free up some money for NASA to use the funds for the exploration part of the missions.

Yes totally agree however NASA is still saddled with the bloated SLS and Orion projects mandated by Congress as jobs programs for a couple of states but progress is being made particularly if you add in a couple of other commercials such as BO, SNC and a small one Masten.

It’s possible and highly probable that the ISS is an inflatable unmanned prop.
Bigelow Aerospace has a strange history seeming to just suddenly pop into existence with no customers or demand for its product.
But that wouldn’t be the case if they started as a black ops outfit assigned the task of building an ISS prop on the cheap so the majority of the NASA allocation for ISS could be diverted.
NASA refuses to be accountable.
NASA must publicly demonstrate before independent witnesses a NASA spacesuit with ice sublimator cooling system in a high vacuum chamber on Earth duplicating environmental conditions of orbit.
The NASA space program is a faith-based thing and that’s unacceptable and unnecessary.

The Johnson Space Center has multiple vacuum chambers for spacesuit and other spacecraft hardware testing in low pressure or vacuum conditions. The testing you are demanding to be done is routinely done there.

From one Neil to another, your conspiracy theories are quite frankly garbage. Do some research on Robert Bigelow, NASA, ISS, etc, rather than just spout rubbish.

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