TORONTO – A privately built inflatable room for astronauts on the International Space Station is on track to launch into orbit next year. Once BEAM gets to the space station, the robotic Canadarm2 will install it on the Tranquility node’s aft port to test out expandable-habitat technology. The company blasted two other modules to orbit as stand-alone missions in 2006 and 2007 and plans to launch a private space station someday. “We cannot fight the New Space vs. Old Space battle with so few companies,” he said.
Speaking on the same panel as Gold, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s chief of human exploration and operations, said commercial operations are needed on the International Space Station because NASA “Owes the taxpayers some return.”
NASA will use BEAM to evaluate the radiation levels inside the module compared to those on other parts of the space station, he added.
The mission is part of NASA’s larger push to make low-Earth orbit a place where commercial entities will operate, whether it’s through launching CubeSats or ferrying cargo to and from the space station.