Nasa’s Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (Beam) is set to be expanded this week – and it’s going to live-stream the mission.
Alongside the broadcast Nasa will also host a live Q&A on its Facebook page and an AMA on Reddit.
Beam was sent to the International Space Station in April as part of SpaceX’s flight to deliver supplies to astronauts. The habitat is designed to “greatly increase the amount of transport volume” for space missions, and give astronauts a larger – and more comfortable – habitat in which to live.
Astronauts on board the ISS will be entering the habitat for the first time on June 2 before routinely entering the module to “monitor its behaviour and measure its performance” in the hostile environment of space. The module was designed by Bigelow Aerospace, which has been working on the technology since 2000. In 2013 the company signed a $18 million (£12.4m) deal with Nasa to develop Beam.
The inflatable pod will remain attached to the ISS for two years, with Nasa hoping that a similar module may accompany astronauts to Mars. Once the experiment is over it will be “robotically jettisoned” back down to Earth.
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According to Nasa, expandable habitats require “less payload volume on a rocket than traditional rigid structures”, and also provide a “varying degree of protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, atomic oxygen, ultraviolet radiation and other elements in space”.
Engineers from Nasa and Bigelow will be answering questions from 4pm EDT (8pm GMT) on Tuesday, May 24, and from 5pm EDT (9pm GMT) on Reddit. A live teleconference to explain how the mission is going will also be streamed online.
The deployment will start at 5.30am EDT (9.30am GMT) on May 26.