Failure to BEAM: Expansion pod doesn’t inflate during ISS test

The unexpanded Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is seen attached to the Tranquility module on the International Space Station in this still image taken from NASA TV May 26, 2016. © NASA
NASA’s first stab at releasing air into its inflatable BEAM lab did not quite go according to plan, resembling instead President Skroob’s ill-fated attempt to be beamed across Spaceballs One.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station began the process of inflating their latest piece of architecture, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), early Thursday morning. The experimental extension is designed to attach to the ISS to create expandable habitats for deeper space exploration in the future, including Mars.

Two hours into the operation, however, NASA’s Mission Control ordered astronaut Jeffrey Williams to abort the attempt, the Guardian reported.

“Thanks for all your patience today, and we’ll hope for better luck tomorrow,” Mission Control radioed.

“That’s space business,” Williams replied.

Inflating the 7-foot by nearly 8-foot module to the 13-foot by 10.5- foot habitat is only supposed to take an hour.

The test began with Williams opening a valve to allow air to slowly flow into the module. He quickly closed it again, allowing Mission Control to monitor the pressure inside BEAM. The astronaut repeated the procedure four more times before monitors told him to stop because of out-of-spec pressure readings.

Williams retried after a delay, but then was forced to pause again, this time because there was no noticeable increase in the module’s size. The BEAM was supposed to inflate to four times its original volume.

After another lengthy delay, NASA decided, “Let’s call the whole thing off.”

The operation must be conducted during daylight hours, so Williams will attempt the inflation again Friday morning. Then he and his fellow crewmembers will have to wait a week before they can enter the habitat.

We hope that the second attempt doesn’t go from ‘blow’ to ‘suck’.