The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship has successfully delivered the world’s first inflatable room for astronauts to the International Space Station. Two days after its historic launch from Cape Canaveral, the Dragon was captured by a robot arm onboard the ISS.
The ship held 3,175 kilograms (7,000 pounds) of cargo, which included the tightly-packed pod, called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), that would inflate into a small bedroom. The pod is currently awaiting installation this Saturday, and will be inflated by the end of May.
They announced last night that they plan on launching a larger, 12,000-cubic foot inflatable space station—called B330—aboard the ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket by 2020. That’s about 30 percent of the size of the ISS. The team asserts that it will, “support zero-gravity research including scientific missions and manufacturing processes,” but also add that it could have “potential as a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars.”
NASA has been developing inflatable habitats in hopes of using them for future missions to Mars. BEAM will still be undergoing testing before ISS astronauts start using it outside of collecting measurements and swapping out sensors a few times a year.
The delivery was part of SpaceX’s historic launch that ended with the successful landing at sea of it’s reusable rocket booster.
The Dragon will be returning to Earth in a month, bringing science samples from Scott Kelly’s experiments. You can learn more about this historic voyage in the video below.