Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An expandable module is a space structure that has a flexible outer shell, allowing conservation of diameter for launch. Once in orbit, the module is inflated, allowing 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.
The company has announced development of a family of prototype and production space station modules, including: the Genesis Pathfinder , a one-third scale prototype module weighing approximately 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg), with dimensions of approximately 15 feet (4.6 meters) in length and 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) in diameter, expanding to twice the diameter once in orbit; the Guardian , a 45% scale prototype module; and the Nautilus , a full-scale production module weighing approximately 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg), with dimensions of approximately 45 feet (13.7 meters) in length and 22 feet (6.7 meters) in diameter when expanded. The Nautilus is now referred to as the BA-330 .
Bigelow Aerospace planned to launch the initial Genesis Pathfinder module in November, 2005 on the maiden launch of the SpaceX Falcon V rocket. This launch has been delayed until Q2 2006. Bigelow Aerospace has contracted to launch as many as 6 Genesis Pathfinder and Guardian modules between 2006 and 2008 at intervals of 7 to 8 months on the Kosmotras Dnepr rocket, a derivative of the Soviet ICBM named SS-18 ("Satan") by NATO. The larger Nautilus module is planned to launch in 2008.
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 Nautilus modules for $100 million apiece. Bigelow also plans to launch by 2010 an orbital resort, tentatively called the CSS (Commercial Space Station) Skywalker.
Bigelow Aerospace was founded by Robert Bigelow and is funded by the fortune Bigelow gained through his ownership of the hotelier Budget Suites of America. Bigelow has stated that he is prepared to fund Bigelow Aerospace with about US$500 million through 2015.
- Bigelow Aerospace official web site
- Inflatable POOFs (privately owned orbital facility), Space Review article (July 19, 2004)
- 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)
- 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, space.com article (March 8, 2005)
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