The International Space Station will be testing a low-cost dwelling that will inflate like a balloon while in orbit.
The BEAM or Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will be flown by Bigelow Aerospace and is the 3rd orbital prototype developed by them. Testing BEAM aboard the station will open future outposts and more for NASA.
Robert Bigelow is the owner of Bigelow Aerospace who has created the BEAM and he is also the founder of Budget Suites of America. Bigelow has 2 unmanned habitats in orbit now, the Genesis 1 and the Genesis 2 and they have been there since ’06 and ’07.
BEAM is 13ft long and 10.5ft in diameter once it is inflated. The planned flight on the Space Exploration Dragon Cargo Ship is set mid-2015.
The BEAM is the first module constructed for human occupancy that is expandable.
If the test flight is successful the planned space outposts staffed by Bigelow personnel would be a definite thing of the future. The company wants to lease to different types of companies for research, businesses and even for vacations.
He already has agreements with space and research agencies that are outside of the U.S
NASA is interested in the technology for various things such as housing for expeditions and research.
The BEAM habitats will be of use for all kinds of exploration missions, it launches easier and cheaper than previous habitats have because of the materials it is made out of.
NASA had previously studied inflatable habitats but didn’t have the budget to keep testing and political issues also help to prompt the cancellation of the project, Bigelow picked up the licensing for it later and developed what we now know as BEAM.
NASA is hoping to have a space transportation system available to fly by the end of 2017; they have investments in 3 companies to be able to do so. The space station will have 15 nations working on it together.
The companies that NASA is working with are Boeing Co, Sierra Nevada Corp, and SpaceX; Bigelow has agreements with two of these for launch services. SpaceX is planning a test launch by the end of 2015, Boeings first piloted flight is scheduled for 2016.