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An update on the Bigelow inflatable module on ISS

NASA has released an update on the privately built inflatable BEAM module that is presently attached to ISS and is under-going two years of testing.

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are pleased to report that, overall, BEAM is operating as expected and continues to produce valuable data. Structural engineers at NASA JSC confirmed that BEAM deployment loads upon the space station were very small, and continue to analyze the module’s structural data for comparison with ground tests and models. Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, have found no evidence of large debris impacts in the DIDS data to date—good news for any spacecraft. And radiation researchers at JSC have found that the dosage due to Galactic Cosmic Rays in BEAM is similar to other space station modules, and continue to analyze local “trapped” radiation particles, particularly from the South Atlantic Anomaly, to help determine additional shielding requirements for long-duration exploration missions.

None of this is a surprise. It seems to me that this testing program is a bit overdone, since NASA never did anything like this in orbit for its own modules. What I think is really happening is that the two-year test of Bigelow’s module was required politically within NASA because there were too many people there opposed to using a privately-built module. I also suspect that NASA got further pressure from the contractors, such as Boeing, who had previously owned this business, and did not want the competition from Bigelow. Thus, despite the fact that Bigelow has already launched two test modules of its own and proved the viability of its designs, it was forced by NASA to do an additional test under NASA’s supervision in order to squelch this opposition.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

2 comments

  • Edward

    Robert,
    You wrote: “It seems to me that this testing program is a bit overdone, since NASA never did anything like this in orbit for its own modules. What I think is really happening is that the two-year test of Bigelow’s module was required politically within NASA because there were too many people there opposed to using a privately-built module. I also suspect that NASA got further pressure from the contractors, such as Boeing, who had previously owned this business, and did not want the competition from Bigelow.

    If you are right, on these speculations, then Bigelow may be the big winner. Bigelow now has actual data on the performance of its space modules, but the others may not have similar data.

    I am reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the politician who once was accused of being crazy, so he went to a psychiatrist and ever after was able to say, “I’m not crazy, and I have the doctor’s note to prove it. Can my opponent prove that he isn’t crazy?”

  • Steve Earle

    Sounds like what Dr. Sheldon Cooper says on The Big Bang Theory:

    “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” LOL

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