Bigelow, NASA Execute NextSTEP B330 Utilization Study

Two BA_330 modules docked in lunar orbit. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)
Two BA_330 modules docked in lunar orbit. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Bigelow PR) — NASA has executed a contract with Bigelow Aerospace for the company to develop ambitious human spaceflight missions that leverage its innovative B330 space habitat. The contract was executed under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (“NextSTEP”) Broad Agency Announcement issued by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems program.

Via its NextSTEP contract, Bigelow Aerospace will demonstrate to NASA how B330 habitats can be used to support safe, affordable, and robust human spaceflight missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. As the name indicates, the B330 will provide 330 cubic meters of internal volume and each habitat can support a crew of up to six.

Bigelow expandable habitats provide much greater volume than metallic structures, as well as enhanced protection against radiation and physical debris. Moreover, Bigelow habitats are lighter and take up substantially less rocket fairing space, and are far more affordable than traditional, rigid modules. These advantages make the B330 the ideal habitat to implement NASA’s beyond low Earth orbit (“LEO”) plans and will support the utilization of transportation systems such as the SLS and Orion. Additionally, the B330s, which will initially be deployed and tested in LEO, will be used as private sector space stations that will conduct a wide variety of commercial activities.

“We’re eager to work with NASA to show how B330s can support historic human spaceflight missions to the Moon and other destinations in cislunar space while still staying within the bounds of the Agency’s existing budget,” said Bigelow Aerospace’s President and founder, Robert T. Bigelow. “NASA originally conceived of expandable habitats decades ago to perform beyond LEO missions, and we at Bigelow Aerospace look forward to finally bringing that vision to fruition.”

  • Eric Thiel

    Europe, Canada, and Japan should also invest money in COTS styled systems to develop lunar landers, rovers, and nuclear reactors for a moon base.

  • therealdmt

    Sure. For all the frustration we have with the U.S. Congress for clinging desperately to OldSpace, the other countries are even worse…

  • Stu

    Surely spin-G doesn’t favour anything other than a circular shape. With a rectangle, everything would slide to the corners (unless it was dead-centered in the middle of a side).

  • Hug Doug

    That’s nice and all, but it still doesn’t have anything to do with my reply to DTARS’ comment. Your comments would be better if given to DTARS directly, instead of to me.

  • Hug Doug

    Orion has had a service module since the Constellation days. It contains the fuel and drinking water, nitrogen and oxygen tanks, as well as the solar panels.

    Orion will never go to the ISS. Bigelow / NASA are most likely looking into the possibility of putting modules in lunar orbit or around one of the lunar L points.

  • Hug Doug

    The Falcon Heavy is considered Super Heavy lift, since it can loft more than 50,000 kg to LEO.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Just consider the difference in DeltaV required. It takes about “3.2km/sec to go from LEO to escape velocity. By contrast it takes only 0.14 DeltaV to go from the Earth-Moon L1 or L2 to escape velocity. That is why a station at one of those locations would be the ideal departure point for interplanetary missions using low-thrust systems.

    Not only does elimination of high-g burns after the assembly/check out of the space probe reduce the risk of damage to spacecraft systems,but use of non-rocket propulsion systems reduce the risk from explosions, especially after rockets have been inactive for a while. If I recall those types of explosions have ended a number of robotic missions over the years.

    Consider as a reference the Dawn spacecraft, 2,700 lbs with 927 lbs of fuel (Xenon). It has a total potential of 10 km/sec. Now consider what its performance would be if, instead of having to be deployed after a high-g burn it was assembled in at a station at the EM L1/L2. But instead of being limited to a single launch as is the case with all space probes now, you used two launches. One for the spacecraft, one for extra fuel. So in place of the current Dawn spacecraft you would have one with the same science package, but twice the area of solar panels and 3,000 to 4,000 lbs of fuel.

    Now add in a gravity assist from the Moon or Earth, easily possible from a EM L1 or EM L2, to supplement the one received from Mars. If there were the case the mission would not be ending at Ceres, but just beginning.

    The use of the EM L1/L2 stations for Solar Sail missions would also be ideal. Consider that most of the failures have been in deployment of the sails in LEO after launch. Deployment at a EM L1/L2 station would not only eliminate that hazard but allow larger sails to be used. Once free of Earth’s gravity such missions could roam the inner Solar System for decades, visiting many asteroids and engaging in multiple planetary flybys.

    That is why Buzz Aldrin proposed such a “Gateway” station in 2003.

    http://buzzaldrin.com/space-vision/rocket_science/l1-gateport/

    “At L1, the Gateport would maintain a stable orbit – being held by the relative gravitational pulls of the Earth and the moon – and require relatively little fuel. From the L1 Gateport manned spacecraft could fly directly to the surface of the Earth’s moon, the moons of Mars, and to asteroids for mining purposes or to deflect them from impacting the Earth.”

  • DTARS

    To me, Delta Heavy Araine 5 and Falcon Heavy are heavy lift not super heavy.

  • numbers_guy101

    See the Orion Wiki. At 21,250kg, Orion’s crew module and service module, with service module propellant, the total Orion kg even with a launch abort system and cover would be fine on a Falcon Heavy.

  • DTARS

    LOL
    Doug tell Thomas that I agree with him about Dragon being able to make this picture happen.
    I knew Orion was very heavy but didn’t realize it was bigger than falcon heavy could throw at the moon.
    So a SUPER heavy lifter can’t get Orion to the moon? Lol ok! 🙂

  • numbers_guy101

    I could see lots of NASA zigs and zag’s from Bigelow – looking at the possibilities.

    1-Become that NASA “Exploration Augmentation Module” (a possibility once cost-plus more traditional estimates come in on ISS-like habitat modules, and give everyone sticker shock). Think how we went for SpaceHab before we had money for ISS.

    2-Become the start of the post-ISS “private stations” that Gerst has said NASA would use. A first module, then a second, etc. Maybe fully used only by NASA, but run much more cheaply than ISS with NASA stepping back to use the “facility service”, renting space rather than owning the place.

    3-Become the principal Habitat portion of a larger exploration vessel (to Mars), with propulsion, power, insertion stage, etc. still to add.
    4-Become private sector manufacturing (or tourist, etc.) facilities, only a portion of which would be used and paid for by NASA. Half time? Half the people? Perhaps making some exotic high value material, pharma or other. Robotics or crew to load the finished product back on to return capsules, or to drop off feed material, etc.

    The possibilities are endless.

  • Hug Doug

    You’re a not unusual in considering them to be heavy lift, but Falcon Heavy is head and shoulders above them, it will be able to launch twice as much or more to LEO.

    Delta IV Heavy payload to LEO – 28,790 kg (63,470 lb)
    Ariane 5 payload to LEO – 16,000 kg (35,000 lb) to 21,000 kg (46,000 lb)
    Falcon Heavy payload to LEO- 53,000 kg (117,000 lb)

    There are many ways to classify the sizes of launch vehicles. The US civilian space agency, NASA, uses a classification scheme that was articulated by the Augustine Commission created to review plans for replacing the Space Shuttle:

    A sounding rocket, used to study the atmosphere or perform brief experiments, is only capable of sub-orbital spaceflight and cannot reach orbit.

    A small-lift launch vehicle is capable of lifting up to 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO).

    A medium-lift launch vehicle is capable of lifting between 2,000 to 20,000 kg (4,400 to 44,100 lb) of payload into LEO.

    A heavy-lift launch vehicle is capable of lifting between 20,000 to 50,000 kg (44,000 to 110,000 lb) of payload into LEO.

    A super-heavy lift vehicle is capable of lifting more than 50,000 kg (110,000 lb) of payload into LEO.

    The leading European launch service provider, Arianespace, also uses the “heavy-lift” designation for its >20,000 kg (44,000 lb)-to-LEO Ariane 5 launch vehicle and “medium-lift” for its array of launch vehicles that lift 2,000–20,000 kg (4,400–44,100 lb) to LEO, including the Starsem/Arianespace Soyuz ST and pre-1999 versions of the Ariane 5. It refers to its 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) to LEO Vega launch vehicle as “light lift”.

  • Hug Doug

    I know this. I think you meant to direct this comment at DTARS.

  • therealdmt

    That sort of architecture would work particularly well with a lower cost, reuseable launcher.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it appears without SLS Orion will not be of much value 🙂

  • Snofru Chufu

    Mr. Robert Bigelow is a great man with personal style and at most well dressed (which seems not standard today). He stands for the positive side of America. He shall be admired for his achievements.