Bigelow still thinks big For over a decade Bigelow Aerospace has been quietly working on inflatable habitat modules for use on commercial space stations. Jeff Foust reports on how, as the companyâ€™s profile grows, so do its ambitions.
Secrets of the red planet The movie Capricorn One hardly put NASA in a good light, yet the movie uses props like a lunar lander replica. Dwayne Day examines how the movie producers got access to that hardware.
Review: Trailblazing Mars Mars is now written into law as the the long-term objective for NASAâ€™s human spaceflight plans, but how will the agency manage to get there? Jeff Foust reviews a book that studies the issues of sending humans to the Red Planet.
Deep ops On the first KH-9 reconnaissance satellite mission, one of its reentry capsules missed its midair capture and plummeted to the bottom of the Pacific. Dwayne Day recounts the effort by the US Navy to recover that capsule.
Bigelow Aerospace LLC, LasVegas, NV, has begun the process of human rating its Environmental Control and Life Support System. The contained volume humans in the loop testing is in preparation for the 2015 launch of Sundancer – an expandable module approximately 27ft long, 22ft in diameter, with an internal volume of 180m3 and supports a crew of three. When completed, the process will have demonstrated the life support system’s ability to safely support a crew of three persons for extended durations.
Space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow visited the United Launch Alliance assembly plant in Decatur, Ala., where he promoted the use of the Atlas V rocket for human missions and decried the $56 million per seat that NASA is paying to Russia to fly American astronauts aboard Soyuz spacecraft. WAFF-48 News quotes the founder of Bigelow Aerospace as saying:
“We’ve already spent about 800-million dollars giving that money to the Russians, and I understand there is about 900-million more that is marked to go to the Russians. So America desperately needs a good transportation system that is economical and efficient.”
Bigelow is teaming up with Boeing to produce a 7-person CST-100 spacecraft designed to launch aboard Atlas V and other expendable rockets. The vehicle would service Bigelow’s inflatable space stations, which the Las Vegas company plans to begin launching in 2014. The plan is dependent upon NASA funding to build the crew transport.
Over at Space.com, Leonard David has a great interview with Robert Bigelow, who plans to launch a private space station into orbit in 2014. The interview makes clear that despite spending $180 million to date, Bigelow still doesn’t quite have a way to get to orbit:
All that is predicated, however, on launch availability â€” be it on an Atlas 5 or the yet-to-fly Falcon 9 rocket under development by private booster builder Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). It will take seven rocket flights, he said, to hurl the elements for the first Bigelow Aerospace complex into space.
Space News has a Q&A interview with Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow, who is planning to launch a private space station into orbit later in this decade. Much seems to depend upon the success of SpaceX.
There’s an interesting piece on Explorersweb about Robert Bigelow and his plans for space habitats. It provides a good overview of his success in launching two Genesis prototypes and his plans for full-scale Sundancer space stations.
“Bigelow said he and his team plan to have two Sundancer modules flight-ready by the end of 2011, as well as a docking node and propulsion bus system. By the end of 2012, the firm plans to have its first full BA-300 standard vessel ready for flight as well. ‘That’s regardless of whatever happens transportation-wise,’ he added, referring to the company’s ongoing search for a suitable launcher to get its hardware into orbit…
“‘The crew transportation issue is certainly challenging, and it keeps me up at night more often than my infant son … and that’s saying something,’ said Mike Gold, director of Bigelow Aerospace’s Washington office. However, there is hope, he added.”
Bigelow Aerospace has chosen Orion Propulsion, Inc. to provide the forward attitude control system for its Sundancer space habitat. Orion Propulsion will provide four ACS bi-propellant modules, which will be used for attitude control and desaturating momentum wheels.
â€œWe are very excited about the opportunity to support Bigelow Aerospaceâ€™s Sundancer program, which is placing the first commercial human-rated space habitat in Earth orbit,” said Orion CEO Tim Pickens. “This kind of trailblazing opportunity is in line with Orionâ€™s commitment to commercial space efforts. Affordable thrusters and systems are centerpieces of Orion Propulsionâ€™s product line.”
Orion Propulsion is located outside of Huntsville, Alabama. Bigelow Aerospace is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Space expert Jon Goff has some thoughts about that potential blockbuster deal for Lockheed Martin to provide up to 50 Atlas V’s to support cargo and crew transport to Bigelow Aerospace’s planned space station.
“If he were just running an orbital hotel (he isn’t), I’d be very skeptical. Instead I’m somewhere between skeptical and guardedly optimistic. While there haven’t been large numbers of takers for flights on the Soyuz, what Bigelow’s offering is fundamentally different. Flight opportunities are frequent (which is critical for most microgravity research programs–imagine trying to run an R&D lab that you could only visit once or twice a year!), the situation is more customer friendly, training would likely be more streamlined (I hear that for Soyuz training the “passenger” is actually more of a third crew member than an honest-to-goodness passenger), etc.”
Hobby Space has an update on Bigelow Aerospace’s progress. The Las Vegas company is in the process of moving the Genesis II module and its support team to Russia. Meanwhile, the launch of the space station prototype could be delayed by problems with the Dnepr rocket.