Watch NASA attach the first inflatable habitat on the ISS

It will be televised live on April 16th.


On April 16th, the ISS will become just a wee bit bigger after astronauts install the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. BEAM hitched a ride aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule during its latest (and historic) resupply mission. Astronauts will use the robotic Canadarm2 to unload it from the capsule and move it to position, before unfolding and expanding it to add a 10-x-13-foot area to the station. If all goes well, BEAM will look like a small protrusion from outside the ISS, as you can see at the top center of the image above. The space agency will televise the installation live on NASA TV, so you can watch it go down... if you can wake up at 5:30AM (Eastern time) on a Saturday.

BEAM is slated to remain attached to the ISS for two years, with astronauts going inside and checking up on its condition several times a year. They'll be in charge of assessing whether an inflatable habitat made of Kevlar-like material is tough enough to withstand the harsh conditions in outer space. Bigelow Aerospace's future plans hinge upon their findings. The company has huge dreams, after all, and has recently teamed up with United Launch Alliance to send bigger inflatable habitats to Low Earth Orbit by 2020.