Author Topic: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules  (Read 6828 times)

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« on: 06/16/2016 04:15 PM »
An intriguing conversation popped up on the BEAM Live Updates thread.  Rather than cluttering up that thread with such speculation I thought it might be neat to start up a dedicated conversation around the idea of additional uses for the BEAM type of module.

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Quote from: MattMason on Today at 12:49 PM


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Quote from: Ben the Space Brit on Today at 10:53 AM

Wow! This thing is huge inside! It could definitely be used as an expendable Orbital Module for free-flying Dragon-2 missions with modular mission equipment arranged around the hub struts!



Right! While BEAM was meant as a unique test design, it doesn't mean it cannot be adapted for more. The special compacting "Bloomin' Onion" length-expansion version of BEAM is different than the "artery stint" widening expansion of the larger module concepts like the 330, but flexibility is literally and figuratively not a problem, it seems.

I can imagine combining two BEAM-like habitats, with mating devices on each end, to form a larger space. It could be moved anywhere. Clearly easy to get into orbit on any Dragon, but it's missing the assembling element.

That's where we need something like that Lockheed Jupiter tug.


Change the business end from a CBM to a 'docking' adaptor and you eliminate the need for the 'robot arm'.
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Offline Jim

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #1 on: 06/16/2016 04:22 PM »
Arm is still needed to get it out of the trunk

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #2 on: 06/16/2016 04:28 PM »
My first thought was something along the lines of the Nautilus concept that appeared here several years ago.  Call it 'Nautilus Lite'

(Sorry Lars, but there's some 'Lego' here to start)

1 Unity Module
4 BEAM Modules
2 Dragons

Now, of course there's all kinds of things that need to be developed/built/installed to make a functioning manned spacecraft.  A robust, long-term ECLSS, etc.  For example, in my idea, one of the Dragons would have a Solar Electric Propulsion module in it's trunk to provide propulsion to the stack.

Assembled in orbit (say at the ISS), with 4 BEAMs to pack full of supplies, one could conceive of missions out to visit some of the NEOs or further, for a ship with a cost a fraction of building some of the previous concepts that have come across.  Call it a pathfinder vehicle for developing true long-duration exploration architectures.

Alternatively, the second dragon's position could be taken by an airlock or observation room (cupola?).

« Last Edit: 06/16/2016 04:29 PM by Cherokee43v6 »
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Offline Cherokee43v6

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #3 on: 06/16/2016 04:28 PM »
Arm is still needed to get it out of the trunk

Agreed.  Which is why my initial idea starts with assembly at ISS or a comparable facility (should one be developed).
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Offline Jim

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #4 on: 06/16/2016 04:30 PM »
Why does it have to be BEAM type?. There are many threads on inflatable modules.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #5 on: 06/16/2016 04:42 PM »
Why does it have to be BEAM type?. There are many threads on inflatable modules.

Primarily because it's not 'vapor-ware'.  One has been built, attached to the existing ISS architecture and deployed successfully.  While it is a 'one-off', and not a production line item, the development of it is already a 'sunk cost' and thus less of a risk that starting something from scratch.

Should it, of course, prove out the potentials that people have been hyping.
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #6 on: 06/16/2016 04:56 PM »
BEAM is a prototype used to gain experience/confidence/flight history.

There's no point in such otherwise. Very likely "one of a kind".

The benefits of inflatables increase with size, so BEAM itself represents the least benefit possible.

Follow on vehicle, if there's one, will be considerably larger, more versatile in application as a hab, and likely able to address more applications than just being a temporary wart on the side of the ISS.

Again, hardware is crafted around a specific mission purpose to fulfill, not the other way around.

Offline MattMason

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #7 on: 06/16/2016 05:00 PM »
Arm is still needed to get it out of the trunk

Jim, could the trunk's cargo be placed on a mechanism that moves the payload forward to give enough clearance for a dock? Or is that a bit complicated based on what we know of the Dragon designs as they stand right now?
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Offline Jim

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #8 on: 06/16/2016 05:01 PM »
the development of it is already a 'sunk cost' and thus less of a risk that starting something from scratch.


Not really.  It was never intended to be a prototype or something operational.  It is not like there is a production line waiting.  So anything new is going to be starting from scratch.
Anyway, there are other "existing" models to chose from.

Offline MattMason

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #9 on: 06/16/2016 05:08 PM »
BEAM is a prototype used to gain experience/confidence/flight history.

There's no point in such otherwise. Very likely "one of a kind".

The benefits of inflatables increase with size, so BEAM itself represents the least benefit possible.

Follow on vehicle, if there's one, will be considerably larger, more versatile in application as a hab, and likely able to address more applications than just being a temporary wart on the side of the ISS.

Again, hardware is crafted around a specific mission purpose to fulfill, not the other way around.

True, and my appreciation for the technology ignored that somebody has to define a mission. Thanks for that.

So when I say "BEAM-sized" I mean a Bigelow-style expandable module that (1) fits into a Dragon trunk and (2) has similar (or better) expansion dimensions as BEAM.

Can't recall if Orion is using IDA, so it could also have BEAM-sized or far larger modules it could pull out of a payload adapter on an SLS flight. I think my brain and understanding of the tech won't keep up with anything more than a Dragon-styled mission, so I'll just lurk if we go down the Orion or even Starliner road.

Jim has heavily inferred of other products aside from Bigelow but I'm showing my ignorance as to what they are for a compact habitat/workspace.

Perhaps we might define some notional missions where small habitats could or would be used?
« Last Edit: 06/16/2016 05:09 PM by MattMason »
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #10 on: 06/16/2016 08:11 PM »
Can't recall if Orion is using IDA,

Meet the International Docking Adapter

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so it could also have BEAM-sized or far larger modules it could pull out of a payload adapter on an SLS flight.

There are a lot of "coulds", "shoulds", and "woulds".

Suggest you back up a step.

Lets say you're a mission planner. You've got an Orion capsule on a non trivial length mission, doing non trivial activities that don't fit inside the minivan like inhabitable volume.
 1) How much space, power, dissipation, consumables, ... trash do you need.
 2) At what point do you need all of this, and when do you need to discard it
 3) In the flight/mission profile's environs, what thermal/radiation/other  issues do you need to contend with?

Now you have a beginning for what to plan for/with. You might even select a few candidates that are qualifiable for this, including perhaps a inflatable (or two).

 1) With your concept under examination, how do you get it there? Carry it along (mass/volume/deployment/dock/release/undock)? Or rendezvous (flight systems/rendezvous/station keeping/attitude/etc?)
 2) What are your contingencies (among them, if it doesn't inflate, leaks, decompresses,...)?
 3) During mission, do you have any compromises due to choice of concept?
 4) End of mission, any issues with shutdown/discard/hibernation of hab?

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I think my brain and understanding of the tech won't keep up with anything more than a Dragon-styled mission, so I'll just lurk if we go down the Orion or even Starliner road.

Orion -> intended to be used on deep space missions. Dragon -> used for LEO CRS, version 2 intended for LEO crew, RD for unmanned solar system lander missions, perhaps more later. Starliner -> intended for crew and possibly cargo. Dreamchaser? It also has a way of getting mission modules too.

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Jim has heavily inferred of other products aside from Bigelow but I'm showing my ignorance as to what they are for a compact habitat/workspace.

Because Jim appreciates missions, having had so much of his life built around them. Look at the above list, volume is only one component, and that is compromised by "inflation" risks in various ways. There's a lot more riding on the matter, Bigelow is a newbie and hasn't the experience that all the others have.

It's not a case of making something work for a mission, its about working the mission and using something after the fact because its the right choice, and then you tailor it to fit so the mission works best. Irrespective of Bigelow.

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Perhaps we might define some notional missions where small habitats could or would be used?

Depends on what you're doing and how you do it.

Ask a mission planner. Who then will ask, "how did you talk Congress into giving you a budget for this mission"? ;)

Offline MattMason

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #11 on: 06/16/2016 08:36 PM »
Good stuff.

I don't assume that "international" really meant that in terms of the IDA. Haven't we've gone through two previous "international" docking adapters during the Russian/US space-love fest that really weren't? What do the Soyuz use on their ISS modules?

Yes, I'm still moving the cart sideways with the horse, if not before. A living space does not a mission make. Nor, it appears, did I define what I'd imagine it'll be used for. Cargo? Supply missions needed to fill it. Habitation? How much room for crew? Duration? Shielding? Redundancies? Uh, what's needed for the mission itself?

I get all that. It's clear that one defines a mission, and then designs the hardware or applies what you have, as noted so many times.

My mind was engaged, for no other reason other than how BEAM was delivered, with a BEAM-style volume stored and used for some wacky SpaceX project. But they aren't into the lunar scene for now. Orion would require a lot more volume for a lengthy mission, and there's still the matter of what the mission requires, and habitation is one of many things as you inferred.

As I opined in another thread on going to the moon in eight years, I don't see a government caring about or seriously funding a manned lunar mission. If anyone's going to the moon, it'll be a lot of private businesses, leveraging the work of the private spaceflight groups to establish a construction beachhead for building commercial habitats for hotels and other space tourism. Once you get enough people, then the government steps in to do what they do: tax, regulate, govern.

In that mode, BEAM-style modules could be attached on a central node for a lunar orbital waystation, used for storage, habitats. I think they are too small for use on the moon if there's means to drop down larger modules.

But perhaps I continue to wistfully imagine without keeping to the fact that volume is just empty space, pressurized or not. Something has to fill it to make it useful, which takes resources. In that case, Boeing has the upper hand in delivering hard-modules that have much of what is required.]

So, I get it, even as a mere enthusiast. I'm pondering the possibilities of the BEAM-sized habitat--just as some in NASA pondered Big Gemini. Might seem cool--might not be the best option to fulfill the mission objective.
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #12 on: 06/16/2016 11:22 PM »
I don't assume that "international" really meant that in terms of the IDA. Haven't we've gone through two previous "international" docking adapters during the Russian/US space-love fest that really weren't? What do the Soyuz use on their ISS modules?
Docking systems
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Yes, I'm still moving the cart sideways with the horse, if not before. A living space does not a mission make. Nor, it appears, did I define what I'd imagine it'll be used for. Cargo? Supply missions needed to fill it. Habitation? How much room for crew? Duration? Shielding? Redundancies? Uh, what's needed for the mission itself?

I get all that. It's clear that one defines a mission, and then designs the hardware or applies what you have, as noted so many times.

Suggest you think like others think - what are the missions to propose that likely get funded. These will be the only way any mission will use anything. Its good discipline to think this way for anyone, and suggest that it is far more satisfying to anyone interested in HSF to chose to follow. Not that hard either.

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My mind was engaged, for no other reason other than how BEAM was delivered, with a BEAM-style volume stored and used for some wacky SpaceX project. But they aren't into the lunar scene for now.

Fine. The advantage of delivery was linked to its destination/arm, and the vehicle's capacity scoped the size of the demonstrator. No way would a real mission module, with its additional needs beyond volume, match that.

The way to think about it is that it demonstrated the value of the Dragon trunk. Capabilities. Musk also says one can have bigger trunks. So a mission planner might see a means to make use of that, carefully within bounds.

And they would also think of like capabilities with unlike vehicles/habs. Perhaps derivatives of Cygnus? Where the trunk concept is excess SLS margin with a LM like payload adapter on an Orion vehicle, no arm needed. Other related/like concepts.

Then one plays "switchee changee" to see the different combinations and advantages with each new set. You also pair off the risk with each. At some point, enough of these grouped together cause different "communities of interest" to moot more, and sometimes a real mission starts to gel.

Forget SX for these things. He's so self directed that you can't inject a thing. Practically down to science packages. It's really hard to get positive attention. Partly why Dragon Lab is where it is. At this point, Musk's attention/patience is itself a limited resource. Even at Tesla his short fuse is very notable.

But for Orion or ISS missions, yes, they might be usable.

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Orion would require a lot more volume for a lengthy mission, and there's still the matter of what the mission requires, and habitation is one of many things as you inferred.

As I opined in another thread on going to the moon in eight years, I don't see a government caring about or seriously funding a manned lunar mission.

Congress is chicken-$hit of landers and other high resourced missions. It's hard to get focus on much but trite HSF for fear of escalating funding.

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If anyone's going to the moon, it'll be a lot of private businesses, leveraging the work of the private spaceflight groups to establish a construction beachhead for building commercial habitats for hotels and other space tourism.

In that mode, BEAM-style modules could be attached on a central node for a lunar orbital waystation, used for storage, habitats. I think they are too small for use on the moon if there's means to drop down larger modules.

Have spoken with commercial lunar interests, including mining/ISRU. When you look at the numbers, it makes sense to do unmanned missions for the foreseeable future, and that's a hard road. The asteroid mining ones also are of like mind.

Space tourism is iffy at the moment. But you wonder at where Bezo's "great glass elevator" ... er ... capsule is destined to fly to. My guess is a Bigelow "hotel in space" might work there, if an ISS module "follow on" to BEAM actually happens (driven by volume, as a "backup" of sorts to certain ISS needs to "eek out" another half decade of use out of the facility - couldn't see how this would be funded, possibly just temporizing.

An ISS module follow-on might be premised on significant space used to translate ISS assets to a new form. That would allow continuity. This is the most likely Bigelow oppy. Second most likely would be a near clone of this same thing for another, possible follow on requiring similar capacity/capability. And those are stretching it.

Why the advantage for Bigelow at the ISS is that one big module could be flown on a single mission, as opposed to multiple modules it would compete with.

Bigelow's advantage is not with small modules like BEAM, but with big things, where/when the volume matters. Many options for "small". Also, when you do govt BLEO HSF, "small" gets you ... cancelled ...

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But perhaps I continue to wistfully imagine without keeping to the fact that volume is just empty space, pressurized or not. Something has to fill it to make it useful, which takes resources. In that case, Boeing has the upper hand in delivering hard-modules that have much of what is required.

So, I get it, even as a mere enthusiast. I'm pondering the possibilities of the BEAM-sized habitat--just as some in NASA pondered Big Gemini. Might seem cool--might not be the best option to fulfill the mission objective.

Actually doing real stuff brings more.  And look to the silly thread on SX Falcon-as-Angara to why lots of little things is a non starter.

Boeing has lots of advantages, period. They provide a critical skill set in complex HSF spacecraft that is unparalleled, and will continue to do. They are used to fulfilling mission objectives. Like ULA, SX, Bigelow, LMT, OA, Ball, ... none of these are the "only game in town".

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #13 on: 06/17/2016 11:23 AM »
For the record, here is my post on this subject from the BEAM/ISS thread:

Not necessarily. They can be installed in self-deploying 'flower petals' inside the pressure vessel and/or along the hub struts. The inflation gas tanks, ECLSS and power system could be fitted in a small 'service module' on the other side of the hub from the docking port; this would initially remain locked to the Falcon-9 upper stage until the pressure vessel is inflated and stable. It would then be detached and towed clear by the Dragon before the U/S performs its deorbit manoeuvre.

Simply put the BEAM would be attached to a support structure on top of the Falcon-9 upper stage rather than to the payload support at the top of the Dragon's trunk. The detach actuators would be taking the place of the SSRMS.

There would still need to be some work - Specifically the 'service pack' that would attach to the end of the hub opposite the IDA plus the internal equipment racks that I mention in passing. I would see the 'lower deck' (the half of the sphere away from the Dragon) half been four radially-arranged sleeping berths and the 'upper deck' (nearest the Dragon) being the orbital activities area; possibly some small lab equipment racked to the 'petals' and maybe observation windows for orbital photography (or just for the passenger's viewing pleasure).
« Last Edit: 06/17/2016 11:24 AM by Ben the Space Brit »
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Offline Patchouli

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #14 on: 06/17/2016 11:06 PM »
The best  practical use I can think for something the size of BEAM would be an airlock for use on a vehicle such as Dragon or Orion and possible Dream Chaser on solo missions that require EVA.

Most other missions it's either too small or for missions similar to the  spacelab and spacehab missions during the shuttle program it needs to already be filled with equipment which would defeat the purpose of an expandable module.
« Last Edit: 06/17/2016 11:08 PM by Patchouli »

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #15 on: 06/17/2016 11:31 PM »
On the Moon and Mars by putting doors at both ends BEAM2 could be used as a corridor between the main modules. The main modules would supply power and air.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #16 on: 06/19/2016 02:36 AM »
BEAMing down to Earth.

A BEAM could be used as a bullet proof tent. It would doors and fastening to the ground. Currently its main rivals are wooden sheds and portacabins. Off the shelf lighting, power, communications and air conditioning can be fitted.

Army camps in places like Afghanistan and Iraq come under rocket and artillery attack. Something that can resist the shells may be useful.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #17 on: 06/19/2016 05:34 PM »
The best  practical use I can think for something the size of BEAM would be an airlock for use on a vehicle such as Dragon or Orion and possible Dream Chaser on solo missions that require EVA.

Most other missions it's either too small or for missions similar to the  spacelab and spacehab missions during the shuttle program it needs to already be filled with equipment which would defeat the purpose of an expandable module.

Such a BEAM mobile airlock can have an NASA Docking System on one end and a door to the outside on the other. It could be a simple door or a pair of suit ports.

When not being used the mobile docking port can be left at a spacestation, permitting reuse.

Offline Bob Shaw

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #18 on: 06/19/2016 05:56 PM »

Such a BEAM mobile airlock can have an NASA Docking System on one end and a door to the outside on the other. It could be a simple door or a pair of suit ports.

When not being used the mobile docking port can be left at a spacestation, permitting reuse.

I think you've identified a role there for BEAM 2 - as a demonstrator for suitport technology. It would be disposable, and quite cheap, and wouldn't put the NASA or Russian airlocks out of business if the suitports didn't work.

Offline Jim

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Re: Potential Uses for BEAM Style Modules
« Reply #19 on: 06/19/2016 06:14 PM »

I think you've identified a role there for BEAM 2 - as a demonstrator for suitport technology.

Why does that need to be demonstrated with a inflatable?  and how would it be done since new suits that use suitports would be required.

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