Scroll down to read this post.


I am now running my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Behind the Black. For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. These companies practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.


Thus, I must have your direct support to keep this webpage alive. Not only does the money pay the bills, it gives me the freedom to speak honestly about science and culture, instead of being forced to write it as others demand.


Please consider donating by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:

If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage or shown in the menu above. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Bigelow Aerospace hiring

The competition heats up: Bigelow Aerospace hired two former NASA astronauts today as part of a broader expansion of the company in anticipation of .the completion of its first two private space modules in 2017.

Bigelow said the smallest space station his company plans to fly will require two BA330 modules, each of which has 330 cubic meters of internal space. The company expects to finish building the first two BA330s by 2017, Bigelow said.

Ham and Zamka are former military aviators who have piloted and commanded space shuttle missions. Their NASA and military credentials are part of the appeal for Bigelow, who plans to put both former space fliers to work as recruiters. “I would like to see us have half a dozen astronauts onboard by the end of the year,” Bigelow said.

Each Bigelow Aerospace space station would require about a dozen astronauts, including orbital, ground and backup personnel. The 660-cubic-foot stations would host four paying clients, who would be assisted by three company astronauts responsible for day-to-day maintenance, Bigelow said. Initially, clients and crews would cycle in and out of the stations in 90-day shifts, Bigelow said. Eventually, the company hopes to shorten that cycle to 60 days.

The company had laid off many of its workers several years ago and was essential dormant, waiting for the development of some sort of affordable commercial manned spacecraft capability. It now appears they are expecting SpaceX, Boeing, or Sierra Nevada to succeed in providing this service in the next few years.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • DK Williams

    So are these modules intended primarily for space tourists?

  • Bigelow will rent his modules to anyone. He has a memorandum of understanding with six countries, so it isn’t just space tourists who are his customers. He offers a very inexpensive way for a nation to gain its own manned space program.

  • Cotour

    Q: These modules appear to be inflatable in construction, do they have self healing properties if they are penetrated either by space junk or other space particles?

  • They are inflatable but their hull isn’t like a balloon, it is structurally as rigid as any other spacecraft. Think of the modern RVs with sections that can expand outward to make the RV larger when it is parked.

  • David M. Cook

    As of 2014, the only thing that’s penetrated a space station hull has been an errant Russian spacecraft!

  • ken anthony

    Actually it’s more like a foot thick of somewhat self healing material vs. most thin aluminum skins on other craft. A bullet wouldn’t do much to it.

  • wodun

    You could say expandable. According to Bigelow, they are better than the ISS at dealing with micrometeorites. The fabric layers are like a bulletproof vest.

  • wodun

    The test videos must be hilarious.

  • Dick Eagleson

    It looks as though Mr. Bigelow must be planning to launch his initial station configuration of paired BA 330’s on a Falcon Heavy.

    The only currently extant launch vehicle he could use is the Delta IV Heavy. It would take two of these, at a minimum, to boost two BA 330’s into LEO. BA 330 mass is 20 tonnes. Delta IV Heavy LEO lift capacity is 23 tonnes. Depending upon how much mass the ancillaries – docking and connecting hubs, air locks, solar arrays – weigh, a third mission of some sort might be necessary to complete a twin-BA 330 station, though probably not a third Delta IV Heavy mission. If all the various bits are not able to self-rendezvous and self-assemble/deploy, a fourth – and manned – mission might be necessary to put everything together.

    The cost to go this route would be prohibitive. The needed launch vehicles, in any case, would probably be unavailable. ULA will doubtless need all the Delta IV production it can manage to fulfill its manifest of national security missions over the next few years in the substantial absence of its former workhorse, the Atlas V, due to the cutoff of RD-180 engines by Russia.

    From a strictly mass standpoint, a single FH could put up two BA 330’s plus a considerable mass of ancillaries on a single mission – probably enough mass for a complete station configuration. This would almost certainly require a larger than standard payload fairing for FH, however. The Standard SpaceX Falcon payload fairing, also used on the F9, is 5.2 by 13 meters. The BA 330 is 13.7 meters long along its axis. Perhaps Bigelow already has SpaceX working on an enlarged payload fairing design for FH. If an entire two-module station was designed to be self-deploying an interesting question is whether Bigelow would go for a wide, squat payload fairing that would permit twin BA 330’s to ride up side by side with their connecting structure crosswise between them, or if they would have to launch end-to-end with both modules fully attached to their connecting structure using a payload fairing that might be able to be the same diameter as SpaceX’s current model, but much longer – maybe as much as 30 meters. From an aerodynamic standpoint, I suppose the latter would be preferable; it punches a smaller hole through the air. How wide the fairing would have to be to accommodate a side-by-side folded configuration I don’t know as I can’t find any information on what the diameter of a pre-deployed BA 330 is. I eagerly await the public release of more details.

    Almost more interesting than the announcement about the deployment timeline for Bigelow’s first BA 330-based station is the information about its projected operation. Each BA 330 module can accommodate six people. A two-module station can accommodate 12. Bigelow states that his own crews and customer personnel will initially do only 90-day tours and that he wants to get this down to 60-day tours as quickly as possible. Rotating 12 people four times a year would require 8 annual crew transfer missions using any of the CCDev craft currently in development. That dwarfs the pair of annual crew transfer missions the ISS requires given both the smaller permanent staffing level of ISS and their crews’ 180-day stays. When Bigelow gets to six rotations per year, that’s a dozen CCDev missions. And that’s per station. Bigelow makes no secret of his intention to put up as many stations as the market will bear. If each station needs a dozen crew transfer missions a year, the future of the crew transfer to LEO business looks so bright it’ll have to wear shades.

    Fun times ahead, people! Fun times ahead! And not very far ahead at that!

  • Pzatchok

    I think they are only a few inches thick and use a proprietary way of folding to help keep its size down before being fully deployed in space.

    One atmosphere of pressure would keep that thing pretty stiff.
    Plus the eventual occupants could put some interior structure into it that will help keep make it more solid like ‘floors’ or dividers and privacy rooms.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.