NASA astronaut Jeff Williams will step inside the first Expandable Space Habitat which was recently deployed at the International Space Station (ISS). Jeff Williams will investigate the potential challenges as well as advantages of such habitats for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications. The beginning of a two-year data collection process will be marked with Jeff Williams’ entry on Monday, June 6.
The tasks that will be performed by Jeff Williams will include taking an air sample, placing caps on the now closed ascent vent valves, installing ducting to assist in Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM’s) air circulation, retrieving deployment data sensors and manually opening the tanks used for pressurisation to ensure all of the air has been released, NASA said in a statement.
Over the following two days, Jeff will then install sensors that will be used for the project’s primary task of gathering data on how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space, and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeoroids and orbital debris.
The module typically will be closed off to the rest of the space station during the test period of BEAM. Each year, the astronauts will enter the module three to four times and will collect data like temperature, pressure and radiation as well as assess its structural condition, NASA said.
After two years of monitoring, the current plan is to jettison the BEAM from the space station to burn up on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room when being launched but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded, NASA said.
This first test of an expandable module will allow scientists to gauge how well the habitat performs and specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.
Launched on April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the BEAM was attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility module about a week later, NASA said.
(With inputs from PTI)