BEAM — the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module — is an expandable module that’s in testing at the International Space Station. As opposed to being built out of rigid material like other components on the Station, BEAM is designed to “inflate” once installed.
The upsides of this tech are huge. Currently, the size of any one structure in space is limited to what can be carried to orbit on the top of a rocket. In flight, BEAM was much smaller than it’s size will be once it’s fully expanded in space.
That was supposed to happen this morning, but the experimental mission was halted:
The operation took longer than expected as slightly higher pressure than expected was seen. Ground teams had to assess the situation and let the pressure settle before continuing expansion. Afterword, ground teams gave [NASA Flight Engineer Jeff Williams] the go ahead to add more air via the MPEV in “generous” one second bursts.
However, the module continued to remain unchanged with the initial bulge. Then just after 8:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 GMT), called off the rest of the expansion to assess the data. Expansion could resume as early as tomorrow morning.
Hopefully, this can move forward soon. Expandable modules offer lots of interesting opportunities for NASA and private companies, but sometimes early days of new tech include failures.