Inflatable Space Module Set For ISS Mission

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Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable BEAM module — a new lightweight activity module, part of Bigelow’s continued endeavors toward putting into use a wide range of portable expandable habitation spaces, including the living-and-working-space BA-330 (pictured above) — has been scheduled for a March NASA mission to the space station.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will be sent to the space station in the SpaceX Dragon capsule, and will be berthed to the space station’s Tranquility node. It will then be pressurized and expand to its full size with air stored in the compressed module.

BEAM will then be monitored through a test period of two years. Astronauts will periodically enter the module to inspect it and gather performance data.

After the test period, BEAM will be jettisoned and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, burning up.

BEAM and SpaceX Dragon Capsule show scaled to human figure (Image: Bigelow Aerospace)

Bigelow Aerospace is working with NASA to produce expandable systems, including habitational systems, and has already completed two succeful missions with its Genesis pathfinder I and II spacecraft — missions noted for their relatively low-cost.

The low cost comes from the low weight of the Bigelow constructions — one-tenth the weight of some similar modules. Improvements in craft weights have come in large part from advances in lightweight, strong materials such as Kevlar.

The BEAM module walls are made of many layers of Vectran, a material similar to Kevlar but made of spun liquid crystal fibers, and fire-resistant Nomex.

Space modules
Space modules linked in Bigelow development lab (Photo: Bill-Ingalls/NASA)

The Nevada-based company is working towards a standalone space habitat in addition to its current module projects. A large expandable module is already being developed by Bigelow — three times the size of any individual module on the ISS, the BA330 is designed for a maximum crew size of six in its 330-meter square environment. The BA330 is designed to be used in conjunction with other modules to build larger module complexes in space.

By Andy Stern

Some images of future BEAM modules

Canada From Space

canada from space
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From the International Space Station’s 400 km perch, astronauts like New Jerseyite Scott Kelly have been taking impressive photos of the world over the past almost two decades of the ISS’s use.

Kelly, the current Commander of the Year Long Mission aboard the ISS, has been tweeting his photos to his followers for the duration.

Here are some of the best shots from the space above the Great White North, Canada:

Want to try to guess them? The photographs show:

1. North Vancouver Island and Rocky Mountains
2. Vancouver from above
3. Aurora over Calgary
4. Aurora over Saskatchewan
5. Great Lakes near Salte Ste. Marie
6. North of Georgian Bay, Ontario
7. Montreal from above
8. Quebec City from above

All images NASA

Watch Earth Live From The International Space Station

view from iss
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This is ISS’s HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) experiment —  a live HD stream from several cameras mounted to the External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module, and has been broadcasting since April 30, 2014.

To protect the cameras, they are encased in pressurized, temperature-controlled housing.

Viewing notes: A black screen is normal when the ISS is flying above parts of the Earth with no lights on the night side of the Earth (it orbits every 92 minutes, so in 30 minutes it will likely be over day again), and there is no sound to the stream. Although the black night view might not be interesting, I recommend you wait — when you see the crescent of the Earth and the red glow of the Sun appear, it is spectacular.

There is also (rare) down-time — meaning there has been a loss of signal with the Earth or that HDEV is not operating: at these times, viewers will see a gray slate or previously recorded video. The live stream frequently switches between cameras — while the cameras switch, viewers will see a grey slate, then a black slate, before seeing the new camera angle.

In the meantime — and relatedly — you can watch the course of ISS live on this other page. It will show you where the ISS is right now, superimposed over the Google Earth map, and you can watch it’s trail accumulate (it travels at 27,600 km/h [17,100 mp/h]).

If you see something great on the live stream, take a screenshot and post it in the comments!

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What The World’s Capital Cities Look Like From Space, Part 1

Brasilia, Brazil from space
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This collection of photographs was taken by the cameras of the International Space Station from it’s orbit at 319 nautical kilometers (172 miles) from the Earth’s surface. Can you guess what some of these cities are, or even the countries they belong to?

We’ll make it more interesting: This first set of cities are all from the Americas, and they progress from northernmost southwards.


Did you guess any of them? You’ll have to click through to the next set of cities to find out the answers to this set!

Continue: What The World’s Capital Cities Look Like From Space, Part 2

Watch The International Space Station Travel Around The Earth (In Realtime)

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The International Space Station orbits the Earth at 28,000 km/h, fast enough to make it from our planet to the moon and back in a day.

The 1 million pound craft carries its six passengers around the circumference of the Earth every 90 minutes at that speed.

And now, thanks to Open Notify‘s API and coder Sten Hougaard, a senior front end developer who blogs at, we can map it’s course in real time.

“I love to demonstrate how to use these features,” Hougaard told us about his use of Open Notify. The open source project was created by Nathan Bergey to provide “a simple programming interface for some of NASA’s awesomest data.”

“[Open Notify] is good sneak preview of what’s to come in the future web,” Hougaard told us. “I expect the APIs and a ‘data layer based’ web will be a big bright future for all of us, the users of the web.”

Related: Watch ISS’s live cameras focused on the Earth, 24 hours a day

By Andy Stern

Here is the current position of ISS on a Google Map, travelling fast enough that you can actually watch the craft’s marker accumulate a trail. (Scroll up or down atop the map to zoom in or out.)

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What The World’s Capital Cities Look Like From Space, Part 2

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Did you guess some of the cities of the Americas from “What The World’s Capital Cities Look Like From Space, Part 1“?

Here are the answers: Ottawa, Ontario; Trenton, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; Havana, Cuba; Mexico City; Panama City; Lima, Peru; Brasilia, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now let’s move from the southernmost tip of Africa northwards:


Now let’s move over to Asia, where the answers for these eight will be found: What The World’s Capital Cities Look Like From Space, Part 3