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The Potential for Health Monitoring in Expandable Space Modules: The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module on the ISS

NATHAN D. WELLS, ERIC I. MADARAS

Abstract


Expandable modules for use in space and on the Moon or Mars offer a great opportunity for volume and mass savings in future space exploration missions. This type of module can be compressed into a relatively small shape on the ground, allowing them to fit into space vehicles with a smaller cargo/fairing size than a traditional solid, metallic structure based module would allow. In April 2016, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was berthed to the International Space Station (ISS). BEAM is the first human-rated expandable habitat/module to be deployed and crewed in space. BEAM is a NASA managed ISS payload project in partnership with Bigelow Aerospace. BEAM is intended to stay attached to ISS for an operational period of 2 years to help advance the technology readiness for future expandable modules. BEAM has been instrumented with a suite of space flight certified sensors systems which will help characterize the module’s performance for thermal, radiation shielding and impact monitoring against potential Micro Meteoroid/Orbital Debris (MM/OD) providing fundamental information on the BEAM environment for potential health monitoring requirements and capabilities. This paper will provide an overview of how the sensors/instrumentation systems were developed, tested, installed and an overview of the current sensor system operations. It will also discuss how the MM/OD impact detection system referred to as the Distributed Impact Detection System (DIDS) data is being processed and reviewed on the ground by the principle investigators.

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