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posted by mrpg on Thursday October 05, @04:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the moon-hostel dept.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, an experimental inflatable habitat/room attached to the International Space Station, will continue to be used for storage and radiation testing in the near future rather than being jettisoned to burn in Earth's atmosphere:

In a procurement filing, NASA said it was planning to issue a sole-source contract to Bigelow Aerospace in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 for engineering and other services related to extended use of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). The planned contract, whose value was not disclosed, will cover three years with two additional one-year options.

BEAM was launched to the ISS in April 2016 and, a month and a half later, attached to the station and expanded to its full size. NASA planned to keep BEAM at the station for two years in order to perform engineering tests about the suitability of such expandable, or inflatable, modules for future use on the station or other missions. At the end of the two-year period, NASA planned to jettison BEAM and allow it to destructively reenter the atmosphere.

NASA now sees BEAM, in additional to an engineering testbed, as a place for additional storage on the ISS. "BEAM continues to demonstrate positive performance in space and initial studies have shown that it can be used long-term on the ISS to support the government's needs for on-orbit stowage and for technology demonstrations," the agency said in its procurement filing.

The agency expects to use BEAM to store more than 100 Cargo Transfer Bags, a standard unit of cargo storage on the station that measures about half a cubic meter. That will free up the equivalent of about four payload racks in other modules of the station for research. NASA will also continue to study the module's effectiveness for radiation and debris shielding.

Also at Ars Technica.


Original Submission

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Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway 8 comments

Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is a planned space station in lunar orbit. The U.S. and Russia signed an agreement last year to work on the station's development. Now Russia has created an engineering department inside the RKK Energia space corporation in order to plan the nation's lunar exploration, including a possible manned landing:

Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.

Although the US saw the primary goal of the DSG as a springboard for missions to Mars, NASA's international partners, including Russia, have been pushing the idea of exploring the Moon first. On the Russian side, RKK Energia led key engineering studies into the design of the DSG and participated in negotiations with NASA on sharing responsibilities for the project.

To coordinate various technical aspects of lunar exploration, the head of RKK Energia Vladimir Solntsev signed an order late last year to form Center No. 23Ts, which would report directly to him. According to a document seen by Ars Technica, the group will be responsible for developing long-term plans for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface, as well as for implementing proposals for international cooperation in lunar missions. This is a clear signal that NASA might soon have a new liaison in Russia for all things related to the DSG. The same group will also take care of all the relevant domestic interactions between RKK Energia and its subcontractors.

Unlike the ISS, the DSG should not require any orbital boost burns and could reach any altitude above the Moon using ion thrusters.

Here are two op-eds from last year about the Deep Space Gateway:

Terry Virts: The Deep Space Gateway would shackle human exploration, not enable it

John Thornton: The Deep Space Gateway as a cislunar port

Related articles:


Original Submission

Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022 16 comments

In a move intended to align with the National Space Council's call for NASA to return to the Moon, the United Launch Alliance intends to launch a Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable module into low Earth orbit, and later boost it into lunar orbit using a rocket which can have propellant transferred to it from another rocket:

Bigelow Aerospace, a company devoted to manufacturing inflatable space habitats, says it's planning to put one of its modules into orbit around the Moon within the next five years. The module going to lunar space will be the B330, Bigelow's design concept for a standalone habitat that can function autonomously as a commercial space station. The plan is for the B330 to serve as something of a lunar depot, where private companies can test out new technologies, or where astronauts can stay to undergo training for deep space missions.

"Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars," Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said in a statement. "It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term."

To put the habitat in lunar orbit, Bigelow is looking to get a boost from the United Launch Alliance. The B330 is slated to launch on top of ULA's future rocket, the Vulcan, which is supposed to begin missions no earlier than 2019. The plan is for the Vulcan to loft the B330 into lower Earth orbit, where it will stay for one year to demonstrate that it works properly in space. During that time, Bigelow hopes to send supplies to the station and rotate crew members in and out every few months.

After that, it'll be time to send the module to the Moon. ULA will launch two more Vulcan rockets, leaving both of the vehicles' upper stages in orbit. Called ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, these stages can remain in space, propelling other spacecraft to farther out destinations. ULA plans to transfer all of the propellant from one ACES to the other, using the fully fueled stage to propel the B330 the rest of the way to lunar orbit.

The B330 is the giant version of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Previously: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon
Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base (could they be joined together?)
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, @04:51AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, @04:51AM (#577312)

    Now I will never be able to get my Millennial not astronaut person out of the house, ever. Guess it is time for me to go to Mars. Radiation is no biggie, if you never will ever use your gonads again.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by frojack on Thursday October 05, @06:01AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 05, @06:01AM (#577322) Journal

      Radiation is no biggie, if you never will ever use your gonads again.

      Or even if you do use them again:
      http://www.rerf.jp/radefx/genetics_e/birthdef.html [www.rerf.jp]

      Its not surprising that the contract was sole source since the BEAM structure and the material its made of are patented [google.com] and developed prior to any NASA contract.

      At the very point in time where people are talking about shelters on the moon and Mars, this thing is performing far better in space than anyone imagined. It costs nothing to keep it there, other than a little replacement atmosphere to compensate for leaks, which seem to be way less than they were expecting. I suspect this will turn out to be one of the most significant inventions for off planet shelters.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, @08:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 05, @08:09AM (#577354)

    Inflatable housing? Are we not supposed to build stone pyramids when we get to Mars?

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by CZB on Thursday October 05, @03:34PM (3 children)

    by CZB (6457) on Thursday October 05, @03:34PM (#577472)

    Its never just a temporary shed to get through the season! But that's what you say at first. 40 years later, its packed full of stuff and you have to keep patching it because its too useful.

    But it is neat the module is working well so far.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 05, @04:07PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday October 05, @04:07PM (#577488) Journal

      I assume they could deorbit the module with some garbage and stuff still in it. Burn it all!

      Packed size is about 29% the volume of inflated size, although I don't know if they could fit anything in there while it's deflated.

      Options to keep it on the ISS for additional years? NASA may be renting BEAM.

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      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday October 05, @09:08PM (1 child)

        by aristarchus (2645) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 05, @09:08PM (#577633) Journal

        AirBNB move over! SpaceBNB launching soon!

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        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 05, @09:17PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday October 05, @09:17PM (#577640) Journal

          From the linked Wikipedia:

          Bigelow plans to build a second BEAM module as an airlock for the Bigelow Commercial Space Station [wikipedia.org].

          The Bigelow Next-Generation Commercial Space Station is a private orbital space station currently under development by Bigelow Aerospace. The space station may be constructed of two B330 expandable spacecraft modules as well as a central docking node, propulsion, solar arrays, and attached crew capsules, though other possibilities like attaching a B330 to the International Space Station or flying a B330 alone have been suggested by Robert Bigelow.

          On 8 April 2016, NASA launched a Bigelow inflatable module and attached it to the ISS, where it will be tested for two years. Any independent Bigelow Commercial space station will have to await the development of commercially available human rated orbital spacecraft. The first of these is expected to be the SpaceX Dragon 2 in 2018.[1] Two B330 are expected to be ready by 2020 and a launch contract for one in 2020 has been signed.

          More at the bottom of the article, including using the same expandable modules on the surface of the Moon. Looks like the B330 will have over 10x the volume of BEAM (this source says 20x [geekwire.com]).

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