The UK’s Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Bigelow.
UK ATC has developed an infrared sensor for the US-European James Webb Space Telescope.
Bigelow’s space telescope concepts include operating beyond the Moon, more than one million kilometres away at one of the Lagrange points – gravitational “sweet spots” where spacecraft can hold station without expending too much fuel.
But before any deep space mission UK technology could be tested onboard the private space station Bigelow is planning.
The New York Times has a detailed look at Bigelow Aerospace’s plans for private space stations:
Over the past year, Mr. Gold visited countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Netherlands, England and Sweden to gauge interest. A stay on a Bigelow station, including transportation, is currently priced at just under $25 million a person for 30 days. That is less than half the more than $50 million a seat that NASA is paying for rides alone on Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. Doubling the stay to 60 days adds just $3.75 million more.
The FAA’s newly released 2010 Commercial Space Transportation Forecasts report indicates that Bigelow Aerospace’s two planned Sundancer space stations would generate substantial demand for commercial launch services over the next 10 years.
These new stations could create significant additional demand for commercial launches: in excess of 150 launches through 2020 according to company projections.
With the initial launch of station modules in 2014, that would amount to an average of more than 20 launches annually over a seven year period. The number of launches would ramp up during the later years as both the Sundancer 1 and 2 stations became operational.
A brief report from a site called City A.M. about a possible partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace:
â€œIt is early days and no formal talks have happened yet, but we have an ambition of later taking people to space hotels in the second phase of Galacticâ€™s growth,â€ says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn. â€œBigelow have a fantastic inflatable technology which may be the answer, not just in orbit, but also in future on the moonâ€¦â€
All this is some ways off. Virgin has to even flight test its suborbital SpaceShipTwo vehicle, much less produce a successor capable of reaching orbit. Bigelow has launched two sub-scale prototype space stations, but it is still awaiting an affordable transport to shuttle passengers to its planned full-scale Sundancer facility.
Orion Propulsion, Inc. today announced completion of a qualification test program for the Forward Propulsion System (FPS) of Bigelow Aerospaceâ€™s Sundancer Project, the worldâ€™s first commercial space habitat.
The innovative Orion Propulsion thruster system uses hydrogen and oxygen that are produced from Bigelowâ€™s proprietary Environmental Control Life Support System (ECLSS) as propellants for the spacecraftâ€™s attitude control system . This truly â€œpeople-poweredâ€ space craft, which burns hydrogen and oxygen generated from water, sweat, and urine, eliminates the need for more toxic propellants such as hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide that are more costly to use and harmful to the environment – on Earth and in space.
Tim Pickens gave an interesting presentation this afternoon at ISDC titled, â€œGreening the Aerospace Community.â€ The Orion Propulsion founder and CEO talked what he feels the industry needs to do moving forward toward a greener profile.
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.
The Decatur Daily has a story about how United Launch Alliance suffered a setback for its Atlas V vehicle, which was not chosen for the COTS program.
Earlier this week, NASA officials awarded a $170 million contract to Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation to develop a new launch system capable of delivering cargo to the International Space Station. The space agency had earlier awarded a similar contract to California-based SpaceX for a similar project involving both cargo and crew vehicles.
The Atlas V vehicle is being considered as the prime rocket for Bigelow Aerospace’s planned Sundancer space station. The companies are reportedly in negotiations for up to 50 Atlas V cargo and crew launches.