back to article ISS pump-up space podule fully engorged

The International Space Station (ISS) grew by 16m3 on Saturday as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was successfully inflated at the second attempt. Time-lapse images of the BEAM inflation. Pic: NASA TV Success: The ISS gains 16m3. Pic: NASA TV NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams spent around seven hours gradually …

  1. Adam Jarvis

    The Glastonbury Module

    Given what gets left in tents at Glastonbury, I'm sure the Astronauts/Cosmonauts/new recruits will be sligthly wary entering that module in a few months time.

    1. NoneSuch
      Facepalm

      Re: The Glastonbury Module

      Welcome to the ISS Play Room. Game of darts?

      PS. I expected "embiggened" in the title. Am somewhat disappointed. :)

      1. Captain TickTock
        Coat

        Re: The Glastonbury Module

        Embigeloed?

  2. Paul Woodhouse

    hmm, when it deflates does it vent into space or just push it back into the rest of ISS?... could be fun to eat a broccoli vindaloo then go sit in it for an hour or two before decompressing it....

  3. AdamT

    CGI?

    This is yet another good step forward in space exploration and space technology development. But I can't help but feel that the actual thing looks a bit, well, scruffy compared to the various CGI/artist's impressions that were shown around before hand...

    1. Ru'

      Re: CGI?

      My thoughts entirely; it looks like it's made of white post-it notes (if such things even exist)...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: CGI?

        it's not an issue. As stated it's been folded up for 15 months, so they just need to build a space steam iron and it will all be sorted.

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      That's reality for you...

      It's frequently unrealistic.

  4. Graham Marsden
    Alert

    "First pop"?

    I hope not!

  5. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Stop

    How space-junk-proof is it?

    If a tiny fleck of paint can crack the window, I wouldn't like to spend any time inside it! Any object would simply go straight through - both envelope and occupant.

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

      Funnily enough they've thought of that. The outer layers are designed to provide radiation shielding as well as impact shielding for micro debris of the type you mention. This is one of the checks that I assume they will be carrying out while it's up there, assessing the proofiness of the proofing.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

      Since windows aren't very flexible, they have to dissipate all the energy of the said paint flec, almost workout moving (or move and break). Since the fabric of this is flexible, there is an opportunity to deform slightly without breaking. Comparte what a car body panel does, compared to a bullet-proof vest.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

        Comparte what a car body panel does, compared to a bullet-proof vest.

        Surely you jest. Ayone who watches TV cop shows knows that car body panels easily stop machinegun bullets, while bullet-proof vests leave their wearers lying on the ground, badly bruised, from only a rifle shot...

        1. gotes

          Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

          Surely you jest. Ayone who watches TV cop shows knows that car body panels easily stop machinegun bullets, while bullet-proof vests leave their wearers lying on the ground, badly bruised, from only a rifle shot...

          Doesn't a single bullet impact cause the whole vehicle to explode in a spectacular fireball?

          1. lglethal Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

            Only if there are bad guys in the car. If its the good guys sheltering behind the car, they are fine. Unless of course they realize that the car is about to explode and then it will handily wait just long enough for them to sprint far enough away before exploding to give them the opportunity to make a heroic dive to safety (probably behind another car...).

            What do you mean Action films are not documentaries?

          2. Luke 11

            Imploding fireball

            It would implode if space were pressurised and the space station contained a vacuous non atmosphere ?

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

              Re: Imploding fireball

              You're thinking of a submarine, I think.

          3. 0laf Silver badge

            Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

            It's designed to stay in one piece if popped, and will slowly deflate rather than catastrophically explode.

          4. Lotaresco

            Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

            "Doesn't a single bullet impact cause the whole vehicle to explode in a spectacular fireball?"

            Then the smell of burning fuel and cooking flesh acts as an aphrodisiac for American heroes and heroines and they embrace and play tongue-hockey.

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

        At orbital impact speeds EVERYTHING is flexible and basically liquid like! The usual approach for satellites is two thin sheets, first one gets holed but the impact vaporises the (very small) projectile so it is stopped but makes a modest dent in the 2nd sheet due to the gas pressure. Big stuff and its game over though...

      3. Vic

        Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

        Since the fabric of this is flexible, there is an opportunity to deform slightly without breaking

        As such an impact will dissipate a little energy from the foreign body, I imagine they could use the discarded BEAM to clean up some of the debris already in orbit...

        Vic.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

      Have you ever jumped on a mattress / bouncy castle / foam sheet?

      Have you ever jumped on a sheet of window glass, supported by its edges?

      Can you imagine the difference?

      Yep, basically the same thing happens in space but with orbital debris.

    4. cray74

      Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

      If a tiny fleck of paint can crack the window, I wouldn't like to spend any time inside it! Any object would simply go straight through - both envelope and occupant.

      The BEAM module, like Bigelow's Genesis I and Genesis II before, has a multi-layered skin about 18 inches thick that includes micrometeorite and orbital debris (MMOD) armor. The basic principle is that of the Whipple shield and, as shown in the fifth picture on that Whipple shield link, there's been a considerable amount of development in inflatable structures armored against space debris. Not to mention nearly a decade of spaceflight experience with the Genesis demonstrators.

      Since the fabric of this is flexible, there is an opportunity to deform slightly without breaking.

      No, when impactor velocity exceeds about 1.5-2km/s, the impact occurs faster than the speed of sound in the materials. Impact happens too fast for a mechanical response in surrounding material to contribute, so all that matters is local interactions. Hence space armor attempts to provide a bumper layer to first evaporate an impactor, then give its evaporated remains room to disperse before hitting a tougher back layer. Or better yet, multiple layers - see the Whipple shield link I gave above.

      A flexible armor might be handy for the aftermath and damping any vibrations that might bother the rest of the station, but it won't do much against debris moving as fast as orbital debris.

    5. Lotaresco

      Re: How space-junk-proof is it?

      Yes bulletproof vests have flexible layers that remove the energy from a bullet or pellet to prevent penetration. Fabric-only bullet proof vests can protect against small calibre ammunition and shotgun pellets. They can't stop a high velocity projectile from a rifle. This is why the vests designed to stop armour piercing rounds have ceramic[1] as well as fabric layers.

      The best bulletproof vests can stop bullets travelling at 800m/s.

      Space junk impacts at an average of 10,000m/s.

      KE = 0.5 mv^2

      [1] i.e. hard, like glass.

  6. Scroticus Canis
    Happy

    podule fully engorged

    So found the KY then.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: podule fully engorged

      You realize that had this been built by the Swedes, none of this would have malfunctioned.

      1. Lotaresco

        Re: podule fully engorged

        "You realize that had this been built by the Swedes, none of this would have malfunctioned."

        But the astronauts would have to escape to the Ecuadorian embassy.

  7. Annihilator
    Coat

    Hope he's not a smoker

    "NASA Astronaut Jeff Williams spent around seven hours gradually introducing air from the ISS into BEAM in short bursts"

    Poor chap must be exhausted! I got a bit light-headed inflating 20 or so party balloons at the weekend.

    1. AdamT

      Re: Hope he's not a smoker

      i was watching the first attempt on NASA TV and he was being told to inflate it in one second bursts. It did seem to me that his definition of "one second" was somewhat quick and evidently mission control thought so too because the fourth or fifth "go" command contained the addendum " ... and make it a generous second".

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Hope he's not a smoker

        I'm not surprised, that's their own recycled air supply they're using. I wouldn't like to chuck it out the window either.

  8. A K Stiles

    Excellent work

    Congratulations to everyone involved in this, and the SpaceX launch & land at the weekend!

    Hope the experiment goes well enough to prove the technology is dependable and could be used to increase our space-in-space more economically than launching giant tin-cans.

  9. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Pump up the volume

    Somehow I think they should have been playing this song along with the video of the module inflating: https://youtu.be/w9gOQgfPW4Y?t=44s

  10. James 51 Silver badge

    First step to Hab material... (will reading The Martian be necessary prep for Mars mission planning?)

    1. AdamT

      Actually I'm not sure that a "The Martian" style Hab material needs to be quite as tough. Pressure differentials about the same but even Mars' thin atmosphere is enough to stop the kind of micrometeorites and so forth that the ISS has to worry about...

  11. Beachrider

    They left the foreskin on for a while...

    Because they knew that that would excite the Europeans! It is gone now, pop-pop...

  12. Mikey

    The important thing we need to know is...

    ...when struck by something sizable like a decent micro-meteor or bits of exploded Chinese satellite, does it compress comically, accompanied by the sound of someone squeezing an accordion hard?

    And with that in mind, if we used these to connect various lengths of station together, especially the habitation sections... we could create the space-going equivalent of a bendy bus!

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: The important thing we need to know is... / bendy bus

      "Bendy Bus" made me think of this.

      Also, any chance a micro-meteorite hit could look anything like this? (God forbid, but you know what it's like - once the idea is is in your head...)

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The important thing we need to know is...

      I would think maybe a Slinky approach.

  13. Robert Moore

    Anyone else read this:

    "to give the astronauts a new playroom"

    As a basement dungeon playroom?

    What happens on the ISS stays on the ISS. :)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Anyone else read this:

      Bouncy walls, zero g, mixed crews? What's not to like?

      (I hope the psychologists sorted the right friendliness ratings!)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I enjoyed that video more than I think I should.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      As always, Rule 34 applies.

  15. Herby Silver badge

    Playroom?

    Where is the bed and velcro sheets?

    People have wildly different views of the word "play".

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Playroom?

      Actually, there are studies regarding the feasibility of human coitus in space. Which should surprise nobody. Well, if anything it should be much, much easier to roll away from the wet patch on the sheet.

      [Link to thingy on Wickedpedia]

  16. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Happy

    I am very pleased, but also surprised

    Very pleased at the successful inflation of BEAM, but very surprised the volume wasn't expressed in Bulgarian Airbags. Somehow it would seem fitting.

    No worries, I'll raise a glass anyway: well done the engineers and crew involved

  17. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Congratulations...

    Somebody inflated something which is surrounded by a hard vacuum.

  18. David Roberts Silver badge
    Pint

    Well done them.

    Looks like a big step forward in building space habitats.

    For those worrying about micro meteorites would you rather be outside in a space suit? I assume they did a lot of development for space suits which was applicable here.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Air bag

    It looks a bit like an air-bag, can it absorb the impact of a misaligned pod attempting to dock?

    may it also be a prototype orbital junk collector?

  20. Titus Aduxass

    Brightness

    Does any know if the new balloon will make the ISS any brighter than it's maximum magnitude of minus three-and-a-bit?

    1. DuncanL

      Re: Brightness

      Looking at the relative size of the white blob that is BEAM to the rest of the ISS and its shiny solar panels; theoretically, yes - in reality, no!

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