Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace

Infobox Company
company_name = Bigelow Aerospace
company_type = Private
foundation = 1999
founder = Robert Bigelow (Founder and President)
location_city = North Las Vegas, Nevada
location_country = United States
key_people =
industry = Aerospace
products = Orbital facilities, commercial space stations
revenue =
operating_income =
net_income =
num_employees = 120 (2006)
company_slogan = Join the Adventure!
homepage = []
footnotes =

Bigelow Aerospace is a North Las Vegas, Nevada space technology startup company that is pioneering work on expandable space station modules. It was founded in 1999 by hotelier Robert Bigelow.

An expandable module is a space structure that has a flexible outer shell, allowing conservation of diameter for launch and weight overall. Once in orbit, the module is inflated to allow for greater work, play and living area for astronauts. Expandable modules initially were proposed and designed by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the Transhab program. After cancellation of the Transhab program, Bigelow Aerospace entered into three Space Act agreements whereby Bigelow Aerospace is the sole commercializer of several of NASA's key expandable module technologies.


Bigelow Aerospace was founded by Robert Bigelow and is funded in large part by the fortune Bigelow gained through his ownership of the hotel chain Budget Suites of America. As of 2006, Bigelow had invested US$75 million in the company. cite news |url= |title=Bigelow Aerospace; Russian Dnepr rocket to launch a 1/3-scale Genesis model | |date=2006-06-04 |accessdate=2007-03-11] Bigelow has stated that he is prepared to fund Bigelow Aerospace with about US$500 million through 2015.

Module design and business plans

The company intends to develop a family of prototype and production space station modules, including: the Genesis I, a one-third scale prototype module launched on July 12,2006 weighing approximately 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg), with approximate dimensions of 14.5 feet (4.4 meters) in length and 5.25 feet (1.6 meters) in diameter, expanding to nearly twice the diameter once in orbit;cite web |url= |title=Out There - Genesis I | |accessdate=2007-03-31] Genesis II, with the same dimensions as Genesis I but with additional systems to be tested and items being sent up by paying members of the public; the Galaxy, a 45% scale prototype module designed to bridge the development gap between the Genesis modules and the eventual manned complex modules; the first manned test module Sundancer; and the BA 330, a full-scale production module weighing approximately 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) when fully loaded, with dimensions of approximately 45 feet (13.7 meters) in length and 22 feet (6.7 meters) in diameter when expanded.cite news |url= |title=Bigelow Aerospace to Tackle Inflatable Space Habitats | |first=Leonard |last=David |date=2004-05-24] The BA 330 was formerly referred to as the Nautilus.

Contrary to many expectations, Bigelow Aerospace anticipates that its inflatable modules will be more durable than rigid modules. [cite news |url= |title=Inflatable space module puffs up |work=BBC News |first=Jonathan |last=Fildes |date=2006-07-14] This is partially due to the company's use of several layers of vectran, a material twice as strong as kevlar, and also because, in theory, flexible walls should be able to sustain micrometeorite impacts better than rigid walls.

Expected uses for Bigelow Aerospace's expandable modules include microgravity research and development and space manufacturing. Other potential uses include space tourism, such as modules for orbital hotels, and space transportation, such as components in spaceships for Moon or Mars manned missions. The company plans to sell BA 330 modules for US$100 million apiece. Bigelow also plans to launch by 2010 an orbital resort, tentatively called the CSS (Commercial Space Station) "Skywalker". The company though is working for the launch much ahead of 2010.

On April 10, 2007, Bigelow Aerospace announced business plans to offer (by 2012) a four-week orbital stay for US$15 million, with another four weeks for an additional US$3 million. An entire orbital facility could also be leased for US$88 million a year, or half a facility for US$54 million a year.cite web |url= |title=Space Symposium: Bigelow Puts Price on Space -- $15 Million |work=Wired Science blog |first=Robert |last=Lemos |date=2007-04-10 |accessdate=2007-04-11]

Module launch timeline

On July 12, 2006 and June 28, 2007, Bigelow launched the Genesis I and II modules, respectively. In 2008, Bigelow Aerospace will complete the Galaxy module but will not launch it due to rising launch costs, [ [ - News - Company sees future in space ] ] testing it on the ground at its North Las Vegas facility instead.

Additionally, Bigelow has reserved a 2011 launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. [ [ SpaceX Lauch Manifest] ] Bigelow has not yet announced the payload for the launch, but this timeframe roughly coincides with the launch of the Sundancer module. However, the Falcon 9 is also capable of launching the BA 330 module. Bigelow is also in talks with Lockheed Martin to contract launch services on its Atlas V - 401 vehicle.cite press release |title=Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Converging on Terms for Launch Services |publisher=Bigelow Aerospace |date=2008-02-05 |url= |format= |accessdate=2008-03-09 |quote= ]

Note: Dates of upcoming launches are proposed and are subject to change.

Genesis I Launch

On July 12, 2006, Genesis I launched on a Dnepr booster from Yasny Launch Base in Siberia. The launch was conducted by Bigelow and ISC Kosmotras. Despite ground-side difficulties during launch, the spacecraft performed as expected upon reaching orbit, inflating, deploying solar arrays and starting internal systems.cite news |url= |title=Launch of Genesis I Pathfinder Ushers in a New Era of Commercial Space Development | |date=2006-07-15 |accessdate=2007-03-12] The mission is planned to last for five years and include extensive observation of the craft's performance including testing packing/deployment procedures and resistance to radiation and space debris, among other space hazards and conditions. Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace, stated in relation to this mission and the next, "Our motto at Bigelow Aerospace is 'fly early and often'. Regardless of the results of Genesis 1, we will launch a follow-up mission rapidly."

Genesis II launch

On June 28, 2007, Genesis II launched on a converted SS-18 ICBM from Yasny Launch Base in Siberia. Launched at 8:02 a.m. PDT Genesis II was inserted into orbit at 8:16 a.m. PDT at an inclination of 64 degrees.

Although Genesis I and Genesis II are identical in size and similar in appearance there are several notable differences. Firstly, Genesis I contains 13 video cameras whereas Genesis II contains 22. Secondly, Genesis II includes a suite of additional sensors and avionics that is not present in Genesis I.

Atlas V as a launch vehicle

Bigelow is jointly funding studies with Lockheed Martin to investigate the usage of their Atlas V rocket as a vehicle for human transport to and from later Bigelow space stations. However, such usage remains uncertain as there is currently no existing crew capsule that could be used with the rocket.cite news |url= |title=Private Space Habitat Could Launch by 2010 | |first=Warren |last=Ferster |date=2006-09-21 |accessdate=2007-07-26]

Fly your stuff program

Bigelow Aerospace ran a [ Fly Your Stuff] program for the Genesis II launch. The cost to launch pictures or small items was around US$300. Bigelow now photographs each item with internal cameras as the items float inside the craft, displaying them on the company website.

The first image of the interior of Genesis II appeared on the company's website on June 29, 2007. Some of the pictures and other items placed aboard Genesis II as part of the Fly Your Stuff program are clearly visible. Another interior image, apparently taken with more of the spacecraft's internal lights activated, was posted on July 2, 2007. Articles from the Fly Your Stuff program are also visible in this image.

Test items, supplied by Bigelow Aerospace employees, were sent into orbit on Genesis I. No new images of items floating inside Genesis I have been released since shortly after the launch and initial activation of the spacecraft due to problems with a computer which controls several of the internal cameras.cite news |url= |title=Genesis I Vehicle Performance Update | |first=Jay |last=Ingham |date=2007-02-13 |accessdate=2007-03-11]


Bigelow Aerospace has received several honors for its spaceflight efforts. On October 3, 2006, Bigelow Aerospace received the Innovator Award from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.cite press release |url= |title=2006 Arthur C. Clarke Awards to honor Walter Cronkite and Robert Bigelow | |date=2006-09-12 |accessdate=2007-03-11] The award recognizes "initiatives or new inventions that have had recent impact on or hold particular promise for satellite communications and society, and stand as distinguished examples of innovative thinking." Robert Bigelow was presented the award at the Arthur C. Clarke Awards in Washington D.C. alongside Walter Cronkite, who was honored on the same night with the Arthur C. Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award.

On January 26, 2007, the Space Foundation advocacy group announced that Bigelow Aerospace would be the recipient of its 2007 Space Achievement Award.cite press release |url= |title=Space Foundation honors Bigelow Aerospace with Space Achievement Award | |date=2007-01-25 |accessdate=2007-03-11] Bigelow Aerospace joins a list of previous winners that include the Titan Launch Vehicle team; The Inertial Upper Stage team, the SpaceShipOne team; the Arianespace-CNES Ariane 4 launch team; the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) teams; the NASA/Industry Galileo space probe team; the Hubble Space Telescope team; Sea Launch; and the NASA/Boeing International Space Station team. The award was presented to Robert Bigelow on April 9, 2007 at the 23rd National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

ee also

* Blue Origin
* List of private spaceflight companies
* Space Adventures
* Space tourism
* Virgin Galactic
* Transhab


External links

* [ Inflatable POOFs (privately owned orbital facility)] , Space Review article (July 19, 2004)
* [ Bigelow Aerospace SpaceFellowship Archive] , Space Fellowship Bigelow Aerospace News archive
* [ U.S. Hotel Tycoon Reaches for the Stars] , Reuters article (August 8, 2004)
* [ Holidays in space are on the horizon] , New Scientist article (September 4, 2004)
* [ Bigelow's Gamble -- Inside the Bigelow Inflatable-Module Plant] "Aviation Week & Space Technology" article (September 26, 2004)
* [ The Five-Billion-Star Hotel] Popular Science article (March 2005)
* [,20967,1027555,00.html Low-Earth Orbit, and Beyond!] Popular Science article (March 2005), showing plans for moon cruisers and space yachts
* [ Progress Made on Inflatable Private Space Module] , article (March 8, 2005)
* [ Russians Delay First Test Flight of Space Hotel, article] (June 7, 2006)
* [ EXCLUSIVE: Bigelow Orbital Module Launched into Space] , article (July 12, 2006)
* [ Bigelow Aerospace Continues Relationship with NASA-JSC for Space Habitat Technology and Private Sector Space Development]
* [ A History of the Genesis I Private Space Module ] (Space Pragmatism, July 27, 2006)
* [ Money Backing the Private Space Industry... Part 3--Robert Bigelow] (The Space Monitor, February 11, 2007)

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