How NASA will use Bigelow’s privately built ISS module

For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. They practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.
Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


Please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Not much it seems. The key paragraph is this:

Once installed, BEAM will be largely sealed off from the rest of ISS, with astronauts entering it every four to six months to retrieve data from sensors inside it. Crusan suggested NASA will consider making greater use of the module over time as the agency becomes more comfortable with its performance. That would require additional work inside the module, he said, since it has no active life support system beyond some fans.

This story illustrates NASA’s sometimes incredibly over-cautious approach to new technology. I grant that space is difficult and that it is always wise to be careful and to test thoroughly any new technology, but NASA sometimes carries this too far. For example, it took NASA more than two decades of testing before it finally approved the use of ion engines on a planetary mission (Dawn). Similarly, inflatable modules were abandoned by NASA initially, and wouldn’t even exist if a private company, Bigelow, hadn’t grabbed the technology and flown it successfully.



  • geoffc

    And Bigelow has two modules in orbit for years now (Genesis 1 and 2). Sure they are end of life, but they collected longish term data on leak rates, and other issues that would concern NASA. This is silly level of safety.

  • Bill Gerstenmaier said NASA would be doing extensive engineering tests on the new module. They were going to leave it up to the crew as to how it wanted to use the module when tests weren’t being done. He said it might be a place for the crew to gather. Using it would involve bringing in some air ducts because there is no separate life support on BEAM.

    It’s really an engineering test of the technology. And it’s being done at a very low cost to NASA and Bigelow.

  • Edward

    I keep imagining that BEAM will be used largely for long-term storage (e.g. disused experiments that don’t fit into the limited space of returning cargo carriers, such as Obital ATK’s Cygnus). This may seem like a waste of space, but it could free up room in the rest of the station for more useful items or items more frequently used.

    Although such use does not add as much experience as continuous manned presence in the module would, it still adds to the knowledge base of the concept’s safety under actual operating conditions.

    As geoffc points out, the unmanned versions already flown have provided some data, but now data under actual manned conditions is needed. Another stepping stone toward what we hope is an inexpensive yet useful piece of hardware for our future in exploring and pioneering space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *