Blow harder! Nasa to make second attempt to inflate expandable habitat on the International Space Station

NASA is taking a second crack at inflating an experimental room at the International Space Station.

Flight controllers, along with the station crew, will try again Saturday to expand the world's first soft-sided compartment in space for astronauts.

Thursday's first effort was halted after the pod barely grew in size when air was let in. 


Officials told reporters Friday the compressed fabric layers likely kept the chamber from fully expanding.

It was launched by SpaceX in April following months of rocket delays.

Because of the postponement, the pod - called BEAM for Bigelow Expandable Activity Module - ended up being packed up tight longer than anticipated.

Nasa has relieved some of the pressure inside BEAM to relax the materials and allow the chamber to expand more easily on the next go-around.

The International Space Station had been set to get an extension today with Nasa blowing up its new inflatable habitat module.

Nasa astronaut Flight Engineer Jeff Williams began manual deployment of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (Beam) this morning at around 10.30 BST. 

But the operation was cancelled midway due to over-running and a number of other factors, including the module not taking the shape it was expected to.

The half-inflated module has now been capped, ready to resume inflation tomorrow after checks and analysis of the day’s events from engineers on the ground.

Beam has been attached to the space station’s Tranquillity module for a number of weeks.

Thursday's mission had aimed to slowly fill the module with pressurised air from the station itself, with the process expected to take 45 minutes.

Flight Engineer Williams carried out the process aboard the ISS, in constant communication with mission control.

Initial steps saw vent valves closed in order to hold the pressure inside Beam, with restraining straps around the module released.

Beam was then inflated in short bursts - often only just one second at a time - with pressure values constantly fed back to mission control in order to keep everything stable, leading to extended periods of waiting.

Beam was delivered to the ISS aboard the eighth SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission, which launched on 8 April, and will be the first inflatable habitat to ever be attached to the ISS.


Expandable modules like Beam, also called 'inflatables', are ideal because they are lightweight and take up minimal space on a rocket.

They expand after being deployed in space to potentially provide a comfortable area for astronauts to live and work.

'The journey to Mars is complex and filled with challenges that Nasa and its partners are continuously working to solve,' said Nasa, ahead of the test.

'Before sending the first astronauts to the red planet, several rockets filled with cargo and supplies will be deployed to await the crews' arrival.' 

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But even if it is inflated correctly, the crew will have to wait until 2 June before they can enter the module, once the pressure has proved stable for a period.

Crew members aboard the station will monitor the module for a week after inflation to ensure the pressure remains consistent and that these expandable modules are able to handle the harsh space environment.

In addition to keeping its shape and maintaining pressure, Beam will be exposed to radiation as well as potential collisions with the substantial amount of small space debris in low Earth orbit - which the ISS has had to deal with in more than 100,000 orbits of the Earth.

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