Almost all the articles I’ve read about BEAM say something like:

“At the end of BEAM's mission, it will be removed from the ISS and burn up during reentry”

Source: Wikipedia.

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But I can’t find any information on how BEAM will get from the ISS to atmospheric entry. It seems odd that NASA would attach a module with a limited mission life to the ISS with no firm plan as to how to dispose of it.

What is NASA's plan to remove and dispose of BEAM?

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    $\begingroup$ Won't it simply be dragged by the atmosphere and burn up in 25 years or so? I don't know of any plans of how to deorbit the ISS itself, I suppose just leaving it in its orbit without any boosts will take care of it. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff that would leave BEAM in a very similar orbit to the ISS for several months, probably something NASA would like to avoid. I suppose they could time the release of BEAM just before a reboost to put some distance between BEAM and the ISS, but I still can't find any definite statement on their plans. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ I can't find a site that explicitly says so, but I suspect the jettison will occur when the Station is at minimum altitude, just prior to ISS reboost. That should send the BEAM on its merry way to reentry in less than 25 years, which is the standard disposal scheme for vehicles in LEO. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ I think the ISS would deorbit in only a few years if left to it's own devices, BTW. Something with such a low density will deorbit rather quickly, I would think. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ Could see how the CanadArm's pitching is doing for the 2020+ season? $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


Upon being released from the ISS, its orbit will decay and it will reenter by itself in about one year. Its ballistic coefficient (mass divided by cross-sectional area, or colloquially a measure of how "fluffy" an object is) is about 1360 kg / (4 m $ \times $ 3.2 m) $\approx$ 100 kg / m$^2$ - actually rather denser than I'd imagined, for an inflatable structure, and comparable to that of the ISS itself.

Orbital lifetime for an object with ballistic coefficient around 100 kg/m$^2$ released from ISS altitude (approx 400 km) is in the range of 9 to 18 months, depending on solar activity.


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