Bigelow Signs MOU With UK Astronomy Center

Bigelow's space station would have space to accommodate up to 12 people. (Photo: Douglas Messier)

UK tech to aid private space shot
BBC News

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.

Read the full story.

Bigelow Signs Up Six Countries for Commercial Space Stations

Robert Bigelow (right) stands before a model of his private space station. (Photo: Douglas Messier)

My colleague Leonard David reports the identities of the six nations that want to lease space aboard Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable space stations:

The deals, in the form of memorandums of understanding, involve Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom.


Bigelow Seeks to Undercut Russians on Space Station Stays

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.


Bigelow Commercial Space Stations Could Require 150 Launches Through 2020

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.


Possible Partnership Between Bigelow and Virgin Galactic

Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II
Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II

A brief report from a site called City A.M. about a possible partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bigelow Aerospace:

“It 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 Galactic’s growth,” says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn. “Bigelow have a fantastic inflatable technology which may be the answer, not just in orbit, but also in future on the moon…”

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 Completes Qualification Tests for Bigelow Space Station Propulsion

Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II
Exterior view of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II


Orion Propulsion, Inc. today announced completion of a qualification test program for the Forward Propulsion System (FPS) of Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer Project, the world’s first commercial space habitat.

The innovative Orion Propulsion thruster system uses hydrogen and oxygen that are produced from Bigelow’s proprietary Environmental Control Life Support System (ECLSS) as propellants for the spacecraft’s attitude control system . This truly “people-powered” 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.


Orion Propulsion to Provide Control System for Bigelow’s Sundancer Habitat

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.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to support Bigelow Aerospace’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 Orion’s commitment to commercial space efforts. Affordable thrusters and systems are centerpieces of Orion Propulsion’s product line.”

Orion Propulsion is located outside of Huntsville, Alabama. Bigelow Aerospace is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ULA Suffers Setback in COTS Program

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.