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Astronaut Enters Inflatable ISS Habitat For The First Time

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Williams BEAM
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams floats in front of the entrance to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. NASA

Today, NASA Astronaut Jeff William entered the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), allowing him to collect the first data from the new habitat’s interior one week after it was inflated.

At 08:47am UTC (4:47am EDT), Williams, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, opened BEAM's hatch and floated inside to take samples of the air and observe the conditions inside. The inflatable habitat, the first such habitat ever installed on the International Space Station (ISS), was described as cold, but there was no evidence of condensation on any surface – an indication that everything is working well.

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Williams and Skripochka have also started downloading data from BEAM's sensors, which include important informaion about the module's expansion. This will hopefully help the ground team know exactly what happened during the failed first expansion attempt.

The successful expansion was completed on Saturday, May 28, and it took more than seven hours of operations. The NASA and Bigelow Aerospace ground team worked with Williams to add a regular injection of air into the module, with the astronaut carefully opening the valve 25 times to add air. The bursts had to be very short to make sure BEAM's expansion was stable and without risk. The valve was open in total for only 2 minutes and 27 seconds.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Williams will re-enter the habitat to place new sensors. Their job will be to monitor how BEAM fares in space for the next two years; how it reacts to radiation, micrometeoroids, and orbital debris, and how it deals with the temperature excursion outside the ISS –which goes from 121°C (250°F) on the Sun-facing side to -157°C (-250°F) when it’s in the shadow of Earth.

The hatch to the module will always be closed after each operation. BEAM, which is 4 meters (13 feet) in length and 3.22 meters (10.5 feet) in diameter, will be in operation until 2018, when it will be detached from the ISS and jettisoned into Earth's atmosphere.


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spaceSpace and Physics
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  • iss,

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