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posted by martyb on Thursday October 19 2017, @12:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the To-the-moon,-Alice! dept.

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

Original Submission

Related Stories

Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies 32 comments

A NASA scientist suggests that building a base on the moon would be feasible within a $10 billion budget, in a special issue of New Space focusing on the feasibility of lunar colonization:

What if I told you there's no reason we couldn't set up a small base on the moon by 2022 without breaking the bank? The endeavor would cost about $10 billion, which is cheaper than one U.S. aircraft carrier. Some of the greatest scientists and professionals in the space business already have a plan. NASA's Chris McKay, an astrobiologist, wrote about it in a special issue of the New Space journal, published just a few weeks ago.

Before we get into the details, let's ask ourselves: Why the moon? Although scientists (and NASA) don't find it all that exciting, the moon is a great starting point for further exploration. Furthermore, building a lunar base would provide us with the real-world experience that may prove invaluable for future projects on other planets like Mars, which NASA plans to reach by 2030. The main reason the moon is not a part of NASA's plan is simply because of the agency's crimped budget.

NASA's leaders say they can afford only one or the other: the moon or Mars. If McKay and his colleagues are correct, though, the U.S. government might be able to pull off both trips. All it takes is a change of perspective and ingenuity. "The big takeaway," McKay says, "is that new technologies, some of which have nothing to do with space — such as self-driving cars and waste-recycling toilets — are going to be incredibly useful in space, and are driving down the cost of a moon base to the point where it might be easy to do." The document outlines a series of innovations — already existing and in development — that work together toward the common goal of building the first permanent lunar base.


Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again? 78 comments

NASA seems hell bent to go to Mars, but can't afford to on its own.
Its international partners have no stomach for that — they would would rather return to our moon and build a base there for further exploration.

Doesn't going back to the moon make more sense? Build a base on the moon, and use its low gravity and possible water at the poles as propellant for further space exploration?

Why not the moon first?

From NASA itself, in 2008:
The all-knowing, ever-trustworthy:

Original Submission

How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently 56 comments

Howard Bloom has written a guest blog at Scientific American addressing the Trump Administration's plan to return to (orbit) the Moon. That mission would use the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, which have cost $18 billion through 2017 but are not expected to launch astronauts into space until around 2023. Bloom instead proposes using private industry to put a base on the Moon, using technology such as SpaceX's Falcon Heavy (estimated $135 million per launch vs. $500 million for the Space Launch System) and Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable habitat modules:

[NASA's acting administrator Robert] Lightfoot's problem lies in the two pieces of NASA equipment he wants to work with: a rocket that's too expensive to fly and is years from completion—the Space Launch System; and a capsule that's far from ready to carry humans—the Orion. Neither the SLS nor the Orion are able to land on the Moon. Let me repeat that. Once these pieces of super-expensive equipment reach the moon's vicinity, they cannot land.

Who is able to land on the lunar surface? Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow. Musk's rockets—the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy—are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready.

[...] In 2000, Bigelow purchased a technology that Congress had ordered NASA to abandon: inflatable habitats. For the last sixteen years Bigelow and his company, Bigelow Aerospace, have been advancing inflatable habitat technology. Inflatable technology lets you squeeze a housing unit into a small package, carry it by rocket to a space destination, then blow it up like a balloon. Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious—an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules. What's more, Bigelow has been developing a landing vehicle to bring his modules gently down to the Moon's surface.

[...] If NASA ditched the Space Launch System and the Orion, it would free up three billion dollars a year. That budget could speed the Moon-readiness of Bigelow's landing vehicles, not to mention SpaceX's Falcon rockets and could pay for lunar enhancements to manned Dragon 2 capsules. In fact, three billion dollars a year is far greater than what Bigelow and Musk would need. That budget would also allow NASA to bring Jeff Bezos into the race. And it would let NASA refocus its energy on earth-orbit and lunar-surface refueling rovers, lunar construction equipment, and devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen. Not to mention machines to turn lunar dust and rock into building materials.

An organization that Howard Bloom founded, The Space Development Steering Committee, has been short one member recently (Edgar Mitchell).

Original Submission

Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars 74 comments

Buzz Aldrin has said that NASA should stop spending $3.5 billion per year on the International Space Station and relinquish low Earth orbit activities to private companies, such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Bigelow Aerospace, and Axiom Space. This would allow for the funding of "cyclers" to enable a base on the moon and eventually a permanent presence on Mars:

Establishing private outposts in LEO is just the first step in Aldrin's plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on "cyclers" — spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth. "The foundation of human transportation is the cycler," the 87-year-old former astronaut said. "Very rugged, so it'll last 30 years or so; no external moving parts."

Step two involves the international spaceflight community coming together to build cyclers that ply cislunar space, taking people on trips to the moon and back. Such spacecraft, and the activities they enable, would allow the construction of a crewed lunar base, where humanity could learn and test the techniques required for Mars colonization, such as how to manufacture propellant from local resources, Aldrin said. Then would come Earth-Mars cyclers, which Aldrin described as "an evolutionary development" of the prior cyclers.

[...] NASA officials have repeatedly said that the ISS is a key part of the agency's "Journey to Mars" vision, which aims to get astronauts to the vicinity of the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

Is the ISS a key part of the "Journey to Mars" or a key roadblock?

Original Submission

China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon 19 comments

China plans to send a 3 kg miniature ecosystem biosphere to the surface of the moon by using Chang'e 4 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and rover. When it departs in 2018.

The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the Moon, says Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container.

[...] Suitable temperature for plants and insects to survive and thrive is between +1 .. +30 ⁰C. But the moon's surface temperature ranges between -170 ⁰C at night to +120 ⁰C in the day. To get around this problem, the container will be equipped with a[n] insulation layer and light pipes to ensure the growth of the plants and insects inside. Specially designed batteries will be used to provide a consistent energy supply.

[...] The whole event with the development of plants and insects on lunar surface will be live-streamed to the world, says the project's chief designer Xie [Gengxin].

Meanwhile researchers at the International potato center (CIP) and UTEC, Peru technical university in Lima, investigates if it's possible to grow potato on the planet Mars.

In the future all you base are owned by China?

Original Submission

Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing 37 comments

Stephen Hawking wants humanity to pursue a Mars mission in the mid-2020s rather than the mid-2030s:

Prof Stephen Hawking has called for leading nations to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020. They should also aim to build a lunar base in 30 years' time and send people to Mars by 2025. Prof Hawking said that the goal would re-ignite the space programme, forge new alliances and give humanity a sense of purpose.

He was speaking at the Starmus Festival celebrating science and the arts, which is being held in Trondheim, Norway. "Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity," he said. "I hope it would unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all. "A new and ambitious space programme would excite (young people), and stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology".

Prof. Hawking also talked about interstellar travel:

[We'll] never know how hospitable Proxima b is unless we can get there. At current speeds, using chemical propulsion, it would take 3 million years to reach the exoplanet, Hawking said. Thus, space colonization requires a radical departure in our travel technology. "To go faster would require a much higher exhaust speed than chemical rockets can provide — that of light itself," Hawking said. "A powerful beam of light from the rear could drive the spaceship forward. Nuclear fusion could provide 1 percent of the spaceship's mass energy, which would accelerate it to a tenth of the speed of light."

NASA usually talks about planning for "Mars 2035". Who is trying to get there by 2025?

A Mars mission architecture SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk will unveil in September will call for a series of missions starting in 2018 leading up to the first crewed mission to the planet in 2024, Musk said June 1.

Related: Elon Musk's Plans for Mars and Beyond Revealed
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan

Original Submission

Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base 28 comments

Let's just throw this old thing at the Moon and call it a day:

A cargo container that was built to fly on NASA's space shuttles is being repurposed as a prototype for a deep space habitat.

Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA.

"We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware," said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin's program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.

Donatello was one of three MPLMs that was designed to fly in the space shuttle payload bay to transfer cargo to the station. Built by the Italian Space Agency under a contract with NASA, two modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew on 12 shuttle missions between 2001 and 2011.

Also at Popular Mechanics.

Previously: NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
Cislunar 1000 Vision - Commercializing Space
Forget Mars, Colonize Titan
Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030

Original Submission

ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050 42 comments (AFP)

By 2040, a hundred people will live on the Moon, melting ice for water, 3D-printing homes and tools, eating plants grown in lunar soil, and competing in low-gravity, "flying" sports.

To those who mock such talk as science fiction, experts such as Bernard Foing, ambassador of the European Space Agency-driven "Moon Village" scheme, reply the goal is not only reasonable but feasible too.

At a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, Foing spelt out how humanity could gain a permanent foothold on Earth's satellite, and then expand.

He likened it to the growth of the railways, when villages grew around train stations, followed by businesses.

By 2030, there could be an initial lunar settlement of six to 10 pioneers—scientists, technicians and engineers—which could grow to 100 by 2040, he predicted.

"In 2050, you could have a thousand and then... naturally you could envisage to have family" joining crews there, Foing told AFP .

Original Submission

NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station 14 comments

The U.S. and Russia will work together to develop a space station orbiting the Moon. Canada, Japan, and the ESA have also expressed interest in the project:

At this year's International Astronautical Congress, NASA and Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, signed a joint statement expressing their intent to work collaboratively toward the development of a space station further out from Earth, orbiting the Moon, as a staging point for both lunar surface exploration and deeper space science.

This is part of NASA's expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called "deep space gateway" concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.

Let's hope that the station, if built, becomes a refueling station that can store and distribute fuel produced on the Moon.

Deep Space Gateway. Also at The Guardian.

Previously: NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
Scientists Scout Sub-Surface Settlement Sites on the Moon and Mars

Original Submission

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station 7 comments

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

Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX 43 comments

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.


Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News

Original Submission

President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1 100 comments

No more sending humans to an asteroid. We're going back to the Moon:

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities." The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

"The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," said President Trump. "It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints -- we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond."

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA's existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

President's remarks and White House release.

Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America's Human Space Exploration Program

Also at Reuters and New Scientist.

Previously: Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022

Original Submission

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 Aerospace Forms New Company to Manage Space Stations, Announces Gigantic Inflatable Module 26 comments

Bigelow Aerospace has created a spinoff company that will manage its orbital space stations, and has announced plans for an inflatable module that would be even larger than the B330:

Bigelow Aerospace — the Las Vegas-based company manufacturing space habitats — is starting a spinoff venture aimed at managing any modules that the company deploys into space. Called Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), the new company will be responsible for selling Bigelow's habitats to customers, such as NASA, foreign countries, and other private companies. But first, BSO will try to figure out what kind of business exists exactly in lower Earth orbit, the area of space where the ISS currently resides.

Bigelow makes habitats designed to expand. The densely packed modules launch on a rocket and then inflate once in space, providing more overall volume for astronauts to roam around. The company already has one of its prototype habitats in orbit right now: the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, which has been attached to the International Space Station since 2016. The BEAM has proven that Bigelow's expandable habitat technology not only works, but also holds up well against the space environment.

Now, Bigelow is focusing on its next space station design: the B330. The habitat is so named since it will have 330 cubic meters (or nearly 12,000 cubic feet) of interior volume when expanded in space. That's about one-third the volume provided by the ISS. Bigelow hopes to launch two B330s as early as 2021, on top of the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rockets, and the company even has plans to put a B330 around the Moon. After that, Bigelow has bigger plans to create a single station with 2.4 times the entire pressurized volume of the ISS, the company announced today. Such a huge station will need to be constructed in an entirely new manufacturing facility that Bigelow plans to build — though the company hasn't decided on a location yet.

Bigelow's BEAM is currently attached to the ISS and has a volume of about 16 cubic meters, which has been described as that of "a large closet with padded white walls". The B330 will have 330 cubic meters of pressurized volume. The newly proposed module is called the BA 2100, or "Olympus", with 2,250 cubic meters of volume, compared to the ISS's total 931 cubic meters. The mass of the BA 2100 could range from 65 to 100 metric tons, likely requiring a super-heavy launcher such as the SLS Block 1B/2 or SpaceX's BFR.

Also at Space News, Motherboard, and

Related: How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022

Original Submission

Nevada-Based Bigelow Aerospace Lays Off Entire Workforce 8 comments

Bigelow Aerospace lays off entire workforce

Bigelow Aerospace, the company founded more than two decades ago to develop commercial space habitats, laid off all its employees March 23 in a move caused at least in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to sources familiar with the company's activities, Bigelow Aerospace's 68 employees were informed that they were being laid off, effective immediately. An additional 20 employees were laid off the previous week.

Those sources said that the company, based in North Las Vegas, Nevada, was halting operations because of what one person described as a "perfect storm of problems" that included the coronavirus pandemic. On March 20, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an emergency directive ordering all "nonessential" businesses to close.

[...] Robert Bigelow said in a Jan. 28 interview that his company declined to submit a proposal [for an ISS commercial module] to NASA because of financing concerns. NASA, at the time of the competition, said it projected providing up to $561 million to support both a commercial ISS module as well as a separate solicitation for a free-flying facility. "That was asking just too much" of the company, Bigelow said. "So we told NASA we had to bow out."

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
Bigelow Aerospace Forms New Company to Manage Space Stations, Announces Gigantic Inflatable Module
Bigelow Aerospace Unveils B330 Inflatable Module Mock-Up

Sierra Nevada Corporation Shows Off an Inflatable Habitat
Expanding, And Eventually Replacing, The International Space Station

Original Submission

Could Corporations Control Territory in Space? Under New US Rules, It Might Be Possible 58 comments

Could corporations control territory in space? Under new US rules, it might be possible:

First, the Artemis Accords go beyond simply rejecting the unpopular 1979 Moon Agreement, which declared lunar resources to be the "common heritage of mankind" and committed parties to establish an international regime to oversee space mining. Only 18 countries have signed the treaty.

In its place, the accords envisage a US-centric framework of bilateral agreements in which "partner nations" agree to follow US-drafted rules.

Second, the accords introduce the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations.

Although territorial claims in space are prohibited under international law, these safety zones would seek to protect commercial and scientific sites from inadvertent collisions and other forms of "harmful interference". What kinds of conduct could count as harmful interference remains to be determined.

(2020-06-02) Third European Service Module for Artemis Mission to Land Astronauts on the Moon
(2020-05-16) NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
(2020-03-12) CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12
(2018-07-22) Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers
(2018-03-07) China to Recruit Civilian Astronauts, Partner With Russia on Upcoming Missions
(2018-01-09) Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
(2017-10-18) Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
(2015-11-26) Who Owns Space? USA's Asteroid-Mining Act is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal

Robert Heinlein explored the notion in a novel. Does the future of space exploration lie with governments or corporations?

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Thursday October 19 2017, @12:45AM (10 children)

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <> on Thursday October 19 2017, @12:45AM (#584296) Homepage Journal

    The only way to have a healthy lunar base is to bury it deep underground. Either that or surround the inflatable module with six feet of lead.

    Yes I Have No Bananas. []
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by khallow on Thursday October 19 2017, @12:58AM (3 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 19 2017, @12:58AM (#584306) Journal
      Fortunately, there's plenty of underground on the Moon. And by "deep underground", a couple meters will do.
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Thursday October 19 2017, @09:24AM (2 children)

        by anubi (2828) on Thursday October 19 2017, @09:24AM (#584442) Journal

        I speculate it would be quite easy to "dig" a good-sized hole on the moon by drilling a hole and planting an explosive.

        With the moon's gravity being much less, and no air to speak of, my guess is a little explosive will move a helluva lotta "dirt".

        Then the building can be constructed in the crater, then the surrounding "dirt" pushed back over it.

        I do not believe explosives ( like C4, or Nitroglycerine ) require air to explode.

        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 2, Informative) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:29PM (1 child)

          by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:29PM (#584587) Journal

          mining on the moon is actually really hard. Cooling your drills (you use these to plant the explosives) is the problem. You either have to spend consumables to cool the bit and flush chips or you have to conduct the heat through the bit and into a radiator. This is one of the things that makes Mars easier than the moon.

          Both will be hard but having an atmosphere, even a thin one, helps a lot.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 19 2017, @06:43PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 19 2017, @06:43PM (#584724)

            Would that very thin atmosphere on Mars actually help significantly on cooling drills?


            Seems like you'd probably need some other cooling.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Thursday October 19 2017, @01:04AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 19 2017, @01:04AM (#584313) Journal []

      Buzz Aldrin is 87. []

      Current Permissible Exposure Limits

      Career Cancer Risk Limits

      Astronauts' radiation exposure limit is not to exceed 3% of the risk of exposure-induced death (REID) from fatal cancer over their career. It is NASA's policy to ensure a 95% confidence level (CL) that this limit is not exceeded. These limits are applicable to all missions in low Earth orbit (LEO) as well as lunar missions that are less than 180 days in duration.

      Radiation risks are greatly exaggerated. Knowing NASA, they plan to cycle in astronauts to the Moon with nobody staying more than a few months. There are no (announced) plans to allow people to live, work, and die there. []

      The flexible Kevlar-like materials of construction are proprietary. The multiple layers of flexible fabric and closed-cell vinyl polymer foam in the BEAM structural shell are expected to provide impact protection (see Whipple shield) as well as radiation protection, but model calculations need to be validated by actual measurements.

      In a 2002 NASA study, it was suggested that materials that have high hydrogen contents, such as polyethylene, can reduce primary and secondary radiation to a greater extent than metals, such as aluminum. Vinyl polymer may also be used in laboratories and other applications for radiation shield garments.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Friday October 20 2017, @01:53AM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday October 20 2017, @01:53AM (#585050)

        Polyethelene has much less secondary scatter than metals, even lead.

        When high energy particles pass directly through your body, they do less damage than if they strike an aluminum hull wall and scatter into dozens of lower energy but still ionizing particles which strike your body instead. It's a case where thin shielding is worse than no shielding at all.

        🌻🌻 []
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by pdfernhout on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:27AM (2 children)

      by pdfernhout (5984) on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:27AM (#584353) Homepage
      The biggest challenge of the 21st century: the irony of technologies of abundance used by scarcity-minded people.
      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:57PM (1 child)

        by Freeman (732) on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:57PM (#584620) Journal

        Yeah, but 9 feet of water shielding would be immensely expensive to ship.

        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
        • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday October 19 2017, @04:25PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 19 2017, @04:25PM (#584637) Journal

          Find it on the Moon? While digging lots of rock that could also be used as shielding?

          Like I said though, the radiation and cancer concerns are overblown. BEAM/B330 does shield from radiation to an extent, and other schemes are available if they land the thing instead of keep it in lunar orbit. It could be cheaper to just treat the POSSIBLE radiation-induced cancer using the medical technology available 20-30 years from now.

          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday October 20 2017, @01:50AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday October 20 2017, @01:50AM (#585048)

      Astronauts get cancer, and they suffer vision problems, and muscle and bone loss, and there are still plenty of people who know all this and want to do it.

      The metric for a successful colony won't be if the colonists live longer than they do on Earth. One potential metric for a successful colony is a combination of self sufficiency and a better than replacement birth rate. The colonists only have to live to 30 or so to make this happen.

      Would you rather live to 30 on the moon, or to 75 on Earth? My answer certainly would depend on where on Earth those 75 years are being spent.

      🌻🌻 []
  • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:31PM (1 child)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 19 2017, @03:31PM (#584592) Journal

    Given SpaceX's success in recycling rockets and dramatically cutting launch costs, I have to assume there are some scared people at ULA. Is this an attempt to stay relevant?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 19 2017, @04:22PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 19 2017, @04:22PM (#584636) Journal

      Boeing/ULA will already be one of the commercial partners attempting to replace the Russians for rides to the ISS, alongside SpaceX. They are already relevant in the sense that they have their finger to the pulse of recent trends and the money in their pocket. What is the pulse telling? That it is embarrassing for America to be forced to rely on the Russians to get astronauts into space. SpaceX could be largely credited for changing the situation... but it has yet to happen [].

      This is an attempt to "keep the eyes on the prize" now that there has been a political shift to the "Moon, then Mars" strategy. The long list of "Previously" stories I added documents the recent re-evaluation of the Moon as a main target of exploration for space programs.

      NASA Admits It Probably Can't Put a Person on Mars in the 2030s []

      There's talk of getting humans in orbit around Mars by 2035 [], but no firm talk of making the landing. NASA could back off and face the potential embarrassment of losing the "first man on Mars" achievement. But SpaceX, China, Russia, et al. might all fail to get it done as well. SpaceX is hinting that NASA should pay it to develop the technology needed to reach Mars by the 2020s/2030s, and if you compare what SpaceX has done with its billions vs. the Space Launch System, it makes a lot of sense. Right off the bat, the reusable rocket boosters should allow SpaceX to get a lot of propellant into orbit or a little further out to the Moon. Then you launch your Mars mission from there with more fuel. If SpaceX does land on Mars first, even with private instead of NASA astronauts, it won't be an embarrassment to U.S. pride since it's an American company. Might just cause some NASA types to grumble, but who cares?

      In my opinion, going to the Moon first and waiting until technologies are better (including propulsion methods, like VASIMR, that X3 thruster [], or fusion rockets) to pursue Mars is a sound strategy, but the political reality is that the U.S. will not sit idly by and watch another country reach Mars first. SpaceX gives us a chance to accelerate the timeline since they have a proven record at achieving a lot with less, fast. Various target dates from SpaceX should be considered BS though, like Mars by 2024. No way is that not going to slip.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
  • (Score: 0) by MyOpinion on Friday October 20 2017, @09:50AM (1 child)

    by MyOpinion (6561) on Friday October 20 2017, @09:50AM (#585157) Homepage Journal

    In "5 years or so":

    "We will have flying cars"

    "We will have achieve over-parity in fusion reactions"

    "We will "go back" to the Moon"

    "We will "have orbital hotels"

    "We will colonize Mars"

    All those are parts of headlines that have been recycled since the 80's. SpaceX et. al has put ZERO humans in space so far. And now some "private space" company nobody ever heard of, is going to inflate a space base?

    I smell money scam.

    Truth is like a Lion: you need not defend it; let it loose, and it defends itself.
  • (Score: 2) by linkdude64 on Saturday October 21 2017, @12:10AM

    by linkdude64 (5482) on Saturday October 21 2017, @12:10AM (#585487)

    Just say it. Just say you're going to put a giant beach ball in orbit around the moon.