Bigelow Aerospace Signs Space Station Module Deal With NASA

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.

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.


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.
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)

  • Andy

    “Small Structural inflatable on ISS (2013) TBD”

    As in *this* 2013? Like the 2013 we’re in now? 🙂

  • That was the possible schedule back when they gave the presentation in 2010. It was likely used for planning. If this project was funded, this is how long it would take…. That sort of thing.

  • Linsey Young

    Lead times being what they are, we could translate this into 2016 for the ‘small structural inflatable’ and 2018 for the large module. Getting pretty close to the 2020 end of program date. Unless of course there is a further extension.

  • dr

    Fantastic news… one step closer to a commercial space station.

  • Marcus Zottl

    Inflatable Module on the ISS?

    Hell, it’s about time!

    I hope this happens sooner rather than later, would be a pity if it gets attached only shortly before the end of the ISS program…

  • Now if we could just get a centrifuge up to the ISS! The theory of artificial gravity reducing bone mass loss needs to be tested in situ.

  • Matt McClanahan

    I would hope it doesn’t take 3-5 years to get a Bigelow module to ISS once the project begins. They’ve already been developed and demonstrated, and there ought to be a mountain of data to point NASA to for review after being in orbit six years. If they use the same design as the two Genesis modules, about the only thing left to do with that established structure is stick a CBM or APAS on one end (or both?) and build it in their already existing factory.

  • I think the speculation about how long this will take is a bit off. There was a story about this last year saying they were looking at a 24-month period for getting on station. I don’t have the reference handy.

    Bigelow likes to move quickly, and it’s to the company’s benefit to have as much on-orbit experience with BEAM before building its own space stations. If it takes 5 years, then that will be able the time they’re ready to starting their own facilities. Not very useful to them and unlikely that Bigelow would even agree to it.

  • kam chuanhui

    Wow, what goes around comes around. The technology used by Bigelow came from the cancelled TransHub project from NASA and was originally intended for the ISS. Things have indeed come full circle.