Earlier today, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was connected to the International Space Station (ISS). As I wrote just before it launched, it is a test for the use of inflatable spacecraft and will be monitored over a two year period for ballistic, radiation and thermal resistance. Astronauts will not enter the module except to perform test steps just a few times per year. Already, the larger Bigelow 330 – so named because of its 330 cubic meters of interior space – is planned for a 2020 launch, and the company has designs on using the technology for a Mars mission as well as possibly for habitation modules on the surface of the moon and Mars.
Photo credits: NASA and Bigelow Aerospace