There are two ways that you can go about building a blowup space capsule. One is to construct an enclosure that self-destructs at a moment’s notice to disappear any evidence of the night before. The other is to build an inflatable bounce house-like contraption. NASA has decided on the latter. Yep, the space agency has just inked a $17.8 million contract with a Las Vegas firm known as Bigelow Aerospace, which has been given the task to build an inflatable capsule that’ll serve as a bonus room for astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module — or BEAM, if you’re looking to get somewhere in a hurry — the enclosure will measure 4 meters long and 3 meters wide, and will be transported to the ISS in a deflated state via the SpaceX Dragon capsule in 2015. Once attached to the aft port of the Tranquility node, astronauts will monitor the BEAM for two years to study conditions such as temperature and radiation levels.
As you’d hope, much of Bigelow’s efforts are dedicated to ensuring the safety of the BEAM’s occupants. To that end, it’s currently developing a Kevlar-like shielding that’s resistant to high-speed impacts from space debris and micrometeoroids. The hope is to prove the inflatable structure’s suitability for use in space tourism and research. Once the test period is complete, the BEAM will be jettisoned from the ISS, at which point it’ll burn up upon reentry into the atmosphere. For a peek at the installation process, be sure to hit up the source link.