Bigelow Aerospace, who make inflatable space hotel modules, are in talks with NASA to put an inflatable expansion module onto the International Space Station.
The Bigelow demonstration proposal has been received and is being evaluated, said NASA's Jason Crusan, chief technologist for space operations within the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
If the green light is given, BEAM would be a sub-scale demonstration of the Bigelow Aerospace expandable technology.
First and foremost, use of the private module would be to meet the commercial demonstration needs that Bigelow as a company is looking to address, Crusan said. But at the same time, NASA has a general interest in expandable habitats and "soft-sided" modules, as well as gaining experience on how they perform in orbit.
"That performance data would also be valuable to NASA," Crusan added. The base plan is that crew would be going in and out of the module.
A secondary benefit of the BEAM demonstration on the ISS is that it provides logistics, stowage and experience in on-orbit operations of a non-rigid aluminum structure, Crusan said. "It's an exciting opportunity for both commercial and NASA to work together."
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