Bigelow Aerospace Signs Space Station Module Deal With NASA

beam_node4
Bigelow Aerospace BEAM module (brown) attached to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Bigelow Aerospace and NASA have signed an agreement that could see an inflatable module attached to the International Space Station, Space News reported today.

The details are behind a pay wall, but the deal is reported to be worth $17.8 million for preliminary work on the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM).  This would be an inflatable addition that would prove out technologies for future space facilities, including Bigelow’s own commercial space stations.

beam_node3a
Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM module attached to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

In May 2010, NASA Johnson officials Tony Sang and Gary Spexarth gave a presentation about the proposed module at the NASA Exploration Enterprise Workshop in Galveston, Texas. The program had not been funded at that time, so the plan formed a “point of departure” that has likely evolved since. However, the presentation gives a good overview of what NASA though the module could do at the station.

Mission

The Inflatable Mission Module provides the demonstration of a human-rated flexible, deployable module for habitation & storage in the space environment under full structural and human applied loads.

Begins as structural demonstrator, evolves to advanced systems accommodation module, AR&D, ECLSS, EVA suitport, and other interfaces.

Technology Goals

  • Technology Goal 2: Advance, demonstrate and integrate technologies needed for lightweight/inflatable modules
  • Technology Goal 3: Advance, demonstrate, integrate, and certify technologies needed for Automated/Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking.
  • Technology Goal 4: Advance, demonstrate and integrated technologies needed for closed loop life support.
BEAM
Interior configuration of Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM module. (Credit: NASA)

Notional Key Mission Milestones

  • Start-up 2011
  • Small Structural inflatable on ISS (2013) TBD
  • Large Inflatable mission module launched and attached to International Space Station in 2015
  • ECLSS closed-loop system delivered post 2015
  • Mission Duration: end of ISS life (2020)