Astronauts at the International Space Station are scheduled to receive the first ever inflatable space room.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM for short, will be carried to the space station aboard an unmanned SpaceX Falcon rocket that is due to launch Friday afternoon.
The two-year experiment could have long lasting implications for NASA, which is studying ways to send humans deeper into space for longer periods of time.
Upon arriving, a crane arm will move the inflatable room into position.
And then attach the pod to the side of the space station.
And then, the inflation process begins, for which there slightly different scenarios.
And then, voila, astronauts have a new space pod.
It will be the first time an astronaut goes inside an expandable habitat structure in space. Still, the station's crew will only hang out in there occasionally — they have to monitor how well it stands up to debris and wear and tear over the course of two years.
"It's not just historic for our company, which obviously is the case, but I think it's historic for the architecture," said Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, told the Associated Press.
BEAM could also lead to larger structures and "change the entire dynamic for human habitation" in space, he added.
NASA officials say BEAM's expandable shell has already proven to be as good, if not better, than metal at standing up to space debris.
Once inflated, BEAM should measure about 13 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter — or roughly the the size of a small bedroom. After a two-year stint in space, the pod will be let loose from the station and burn up on re-entry.
NASA paid Bigelow Aerospace $17.8 million for the test flight.
Watch the entire animation of the BEAM's planned installation here:
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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