Tag Archives: B330

Bigelow establishes company to market its private space stations

Capitalism in space: Bigelow Aerospace yesterday established a marketing company to research and find potential customers for its private space stations.

“You’ll need deep pockets if you’re interested in staying aboard a Bigelow station; prices will likely run in the ‘low seven figures,'” Bigelow said today. He doesn’t expect tourist jaunts to make up the bulk of his business, however. “What we’ve always anticipated and expected is that we would be very involved in helping foreign countries to establish their human space programs, and be able to facilitate whatever their needs were in whatever context that they wanted to pursue,” he said. “The corporate world, obviously, is huge, and [leveraging] that is also our intent.”

Bigelow already says it will launch to of its large B330 modules in 2021, with another aimed for lunar orbit in 2022. I must note that the 2021 launch date appears to be year later then earlier announcements.

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Bigelow and ULA propose lunar station

Capitalism in space: Bigelow, builders of expandable space station modules, and ULA, building of rockets, have jointly proposed building an inexpensive lunar space station for NASA, to be launched by 2022.

The announcement build upon existing work between the two companies to study launching B330 modules, originally on the Atlas 5, Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow said in an Oct. 17 interview. He said his company decided to shift to the Vulcan vehicle and then build upon its capabilities, such as the ACES upper stage that is intended to also serve as a refuelable space tug. “There is synchronicity between what ULA has in the way of capabilities and what we’re doing,” Bigelow said. “We decided to collaborate and prepare a proposal that the White House and NASA could accept as part of an overall space plan.”

Bigelow emphasized he saw this proposal as a public-private partnership. He estimated NASA’s share of the costs to be $2.3 billion, in addition to the “hundreds of millions” being spent by both Bigelow Aerospace and ULA. “It’s executable within four years of receiving funding and NASA giving us the word,” he said.

The lunar depot would be available for both NASA and commercial uses, according to Bigelow. It could be visited by NASA Orion spacecraft launched by the Space Launch System, but he said it’s possible other spacecraft, like a version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, could also provide transportation to and from the facility.

Bigelow also went out of his way to say that this proposal was not meant to replace NASA’s proposed Deep Space Gateway, also a lunar space station, but as a quicker and cheaper supplement that could be launched and put into service while the gateway was being built.

In other words, Bigelow wishes to be to the Deep Space Gateway what SpaceX has been to SLS/Orion, the real thing while Congress continues to pour money into a parallel boondoggle that never goes anywhere.

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ULA to launch two Bigelow space station modules

The competition heats up: ULA and Bigelow Aerospace have announced a partnership to launch two of Bigelow’s largest space station modules, each with about as much interior space as both Skylab and Mir.

Both will be ready for launch by 2020. Neither company has made clear if they have any outside investment, though they left open the option of working with NASA and having the modules attached to ISS.

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NASA considers using Bigelow module for deep space missions

The competition heats up: Rather than build something in-house for gobs of money and decades of work, NASA is considering using Bigelow Aerospace’s largest inflatable modules for its deep space missions.

What has happened is that NASA has signed a joint agreement with Bigelow to study the possibility of using Bigelow’s B330 module as a transport habitat on long flights. The agency really has no choice, as it doesn’t have the funding to develop the necessary large spacecraft for these missions, and Bigelow can provide them to it for much less.

This description of the background of Bigelow’s inflatable modules illustrates why NASA can’t build these itself:

The B330 evolved from the Genesis I and II modules that Bigelow Aerospace had launched into space. Those technology demonstrators were born out of the NASA project known as TransHab. The TransHab was an inflatable module designed for the ISS but was ultimately cancelled in 1999 due to budget constraints. The module would have provided a 4 level 27.5 feet (8.4 meter) diameter habitat for the astronauts.

After TransHab was cancelled, Bigelow worked with NASA on a technology transfer, giving Bigelow Aerospace exclusive rights to the technology. Using this technology, Bigelow designed, built and launched two technology demonstrators. They are still on orbit today. Genesis I was launched in 2006 with it’s sister ship launching in 2007. Both ships tested flight operations processes and on-board electronics and have performed above design specifications. [emphasis mine]

Unlike NASA, as a private company Bigelow was able to build this technology quickly and at a low cost. With the new agreement, the goal will be study the operation of a B330 in independent flight in low Earth orbit. Whether an actual B330 will be build and launched however is not yet clear.

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