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

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-02-20 23:26:15

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 []

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