back to article Inflatable space podule set for orbital trial

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is set to travel to the International Space Station later this week, ahead of a two-year trial to see how it performs in the rigours of outer space. The 1,400kg inflatable podule is currently packed into the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft which will depart Cape Canaveral Air …

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Happy

If they don't make the astronauts inflate it by blowing into a tube until they go red in the face, I shall be very disappointed. Particularly if one lets go, and it flies off round the solar system making a farting noise that nobody can hear...

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Pint

"...inflate it..."

Erm... It's a hard vacuum on the outside.

It shouldn't take much effort to inflate, assuming that the breathless astronaut isn't also exposed to a hard vacuum.

"3, 2, 1, GO!"

[Contestant removes thumb from inlet tube; air flows in; the module self-inflates]

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Bigelow have launched two inflatable modules already, Genesis 1 was still fine when the electronics failed 2.5 years after launch, as was Genesis 2. Both are still up there and are big enough to be visible when they pass overhead.

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BEAM / B330

Interesting. Information on the Bigelow pages is a bit thin, though.

Does anybody know why the storage on the B330 is divided into 'Storage Bags' and 'Long Term Storage'? And what is supposed to be stored in the two storage systems?

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Re: BEAM / B330

Corpsicles...

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Re: BEAM / B330

Presumably the bags are easily accessible , resealable equivalents of lockers.

Long term storage would then be to store boxes of stuff you might later use to refill the bags.

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Re: BEAM / B330

Does anybody know why the storage on the B330 is divided into 'Storage Bags' and 'Long Term Storage'? And what is supposed to be stored in the two storage systems?

There's a long history of folding and soft-sided storage in US spaceflight. I couldn't find an example photo from the shuttle, but the ISS uses them in several places. For example, here's the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM, aka orbital walk-in closet). Soft bags stuffed with hard cargo are around the astronauts on three sides, while unused bags are flattened on the floor. Another view of the stowage bags, which are kept in folding hard racks.

More on the evolution of soft stowage

For an inflating space station module, collapsible storage bags makes sense - they can be folded with the rest of the module, and folded out of the way. A good choice for short-term items.

I'm not sure what the plan is for Bigelow's "long term storage" is, though. The station uses soft stowage bags for long- and short-term storage.

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Re: BEAM / B330

Thanks for the info & the links!

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Huh?

In its compacted state, BEAM is 2.16 metres long, 2.36 metres in diameter and with a volume of just 3.6m3. Once attached to the orbiting outpost's Tranquility node, it'll be pumped up to its full size of 4.01 metres in length, with a diameter of 3.23 metres and an capacious volume of 16m3.

Are these exterior dimensions and interior volumes? If not, they're out by a factor of 2 or more.

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Childcatcher

Re: Huh?

Yes, the way the specs are presented is a bit misleading, but it very much looks like the external dimensions are given for length and diameter while the volume given is for the internal capacity. This is nothing new, though as the IT industry has been doing that for years in describing drive capacities in terms of unformatted vs usable space.

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Re: Huh?

Those are the most practical measurements for it's intended use.

How much space it takes up on my rocket/attached to my space station.

How much usable volume I get for my astronauts.

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Ru'

Re: Huh?

But what's the point of the internal volume-when-emsmallened if that's the case (and the external dimensions when embiggened)?

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Re: Huh?

Presumably you could pre-fill it with stuff (although it looks like it comes with an array of gas tanks for inflating it which must take up some/most of the compressed volume?).

As for the external dimensions, you need to know if/where it's going to fit on your space station, not get in the way of the panels/canadarm/other modules etc.

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Re: Huh?

This is nothing new, though as the IT industry has been doing that for years in describing drive capacities in terms of unformatted vs usable space.

Annoying as it might be, it is because drive manufacturers report size in decimal SI units (the prefix being 1000 and not binary 1024 that you might expect).

Disclaimer: I don't agree with drive vendors choice either, but it does have some arithmetic merit.

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Ru'

Podule is a great word. That is all.

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I prefer 'Outer Space Bouncy Castle'

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Err, unfortunately I don't think that description would make it past the PR department given recent bouncy castle incidents. It would give Outer Space a bad name...

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"Podule is a great word"

The Acorn Archimedes used to have podules.

And here's a Not The Nine O'Clock News video of Rowan Atkinson and his "small translator podule"

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Re podule

isn't this rather a loondule?

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16 square meter?

Wow, in Tokyo that would be enough space for a whole family.

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Re: 16 square meter?

16 cubic meters. That's actually significantly smaller in practice. The Japanese aren't that short.

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Falcon 9

Any word on a booster landing attempt? They will plant the barge landing one of these days...

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Re: Falcon 9

Supposed to be going for a barge landing again, I can't see anything about the ship having set sail yet though.

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Pint

Re: Falcon 9

Vulch: "...I can't see anything about the ship having set sail yet though."

They're still loading on the floaty fiber-optic cables.

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Happy

Re: Falcon 9

Ah, that's how they're going to get reliable video of the landing. Cunning!

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Baloons

Mmm, I'm not so sure this isn't just a cheap way to maintain ISS altitude?

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Joke

LOHAN

Have a quick word Lester, maybe they'll let you staple LOHAN to the outside of the thing?

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: LOHAN

Just as likely as getting FAA approval ;-)

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Looks like...

They can get Dave up there..they appear to be watching Top Gear!

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Coat

International Space Station?

Are these air bags from Bulgaria?

It's OK, I'm not here very often these days

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arklets

SevenEves

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Thumb Up

Security doors?

Will there be ground control of the doors into this podule or are astronauts wanting a bit "me time" likely to think "Ooooohhh, a big empty room!"

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I dunno

There's just something about any sentence including the words 'inflatable' and 'spacestation'* that strikes me as being inadvisable and likely to preceed another sentence including the word 'tragedy'.

* yes, yes, or 'podule'

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Re: I dunno

Because it's lighter than metal, I'd imagine that the walls of an inflatable stucture will actually be thicker. And certainly easier to sandwich different layers of materials - so you'll end up with something that's more damage resistant. Being able to deform on small impact is also good, as it absorbs energy before breakage.

Plus, if you're dealing with stuff hitting you at orbital velocities, it doesn't really matter what you use, you'll get a hole. You've then either got to be able to patch it, or just close the airlock, and move to another module.

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Re: I dunno

Also, you are not necessarily surrendering material strength in comparison to metals. Polyaramides, (AKA Kevlar) can resist more force in the tensile mode than steel, fibres of this type would be under tensile load in an inflated configuration and therefore exploiting their inherent properties.

You also potentially have greater material strength and resilience due to layering and orientation of the fibres to resist the extent of impact damage.

An inflatable structure might not appear at first view to instill a great amount of confidence yet pound for pound probably provides much enhanced performance than existing construction materials and configurations.

They are spending serious time and money on it therefore there must be a compelling case to pursue the solution.

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Re: I dunno

I wasn't thinking about things impacting it externally, so much as a jagged toenail (or a clumsilly handled breadknife) ripping it from the inside, but both posters' points are well-taken :)

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