Last summer catastrophe hit SpaceX when its Dragon capsule exploded during an attempted resupply mission to the ISS. SpaceX was returned to flight status after the disaster and its latest resupply mission to the ISS has been completed without any issues. This resupply mission had one very cool bit of tech onboard in the form of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module or BEAM.
In addition to BEAM, the capsule also has 3.5 tons of supplies and experiments on board. The capsule will remain attached to Harmony for a month. This mission also marks the first time that the Dragon capsule is docked right next to the US Orbital ATK Cygnus commercial cargo vehicle. Cygnus is attached to the Unity module and has been there since March 26.
Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Tim Peake from the ESA used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Dragon capsule and attach it to its docking port. Certainly, the most interesting experiment on the capsule is the BEAM device. BEAM is essentially an inflatable room designed to give more space on the ISS at a lower cost than traditional modules.
Astronauts will spend a few hours at time inside BEAM for a few times each year over the next two years in an effort to see how the habitat holds up to living in space. The single BEAM room adds 565 cubic feet of space when inflated and when compressed takes up only 105.9 cubic feet. BEAM might also one day be used as habitats used for living pods on the ground, possibly as places for astronauts to live on Mars. One key bit of information that Bigelow researchers are looking for is how well the module survives radiation and if it can survive impacts from space debris. SpaceX also had another rousing success earlier this month when it landed its rocket on the drone ship in the ocean for the first time.