The ISS now has its own inflatable bedroom-sized pod

11 Apr 2016

An artist's conception of the inflated BEAM. Image via Bigelow Aerospace

The latest delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) is likely to go down well with the crew aboard the craft with the arrival of the first inflatable room paving the way for future inflatable space rooms.

While likely still celebrating the successful landing of its Falcon 9 rocket aboard a sea-based platform last week, SpaceX and its latest delivery to the ISS marks yet another major milestone for making life in space that little bit comfier.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is at the forefront of space freight shipping with a capacity for more  than three tonnes of cargo, but while this is typically filled with foodstuffs and other vital equipment, this latest shipment also contained a small pod that, when inflated, could reach the size of a typical bedroom.

Called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), the inflatable room is envisioned as one potential future for human habitation in space, with this pod being a testing ground for future habitats on Mars.

SpaceX delivery ISS

The SpaceX Dragon is seen shortly after it was mated to the Harmony module. Image via NASA TV

‘Looks like we caught a Dragon’

According to, NASA also has plans to use the BEAM technology to create inflatable space stations orbiting the Earth within the next four years, with aims of renting them out for commercial leases.

Aboard the ISS, however, they are taking things very slowly, with the inflatable pod being attached to the station, but it will not be inflated until May at the earliest.

Even then, it’s not envisioned that the six-person crew will enter it in any living capacity, but will go in on occasion to measure data generated during its inflation in space.

The arrival of the Dragon capsule was also a major relief for SpaceX, which has not launched payload into space since an accident last year shelved its delivery plans until today.

Controlling the robotic arm designed to grab hold of the pilotless capsule was UK astronaut Tim Peake who, when capturing the craft, said: “It looks like we caught a dragon.”

BEAM inforgraphic

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic