Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bigelow Space Station

Just in the past week, Bigelow made history when it launched a 33% model of their inflatable space station into orbit. The station successfully inflated, and the deployment of solar arrays was also successful. Space enthusiasts and activists often talk of turning "swords into plowshares," and this is a perfect example of it. And old Soviet ICBM had been converted to the space rocket that send the space station to orbit. Perhaps, this should be done much more. The company plans on launching new modules in the near future.
They plan to launch their next experimental module late this year, and will probably be launching them at a rate of at least two a year for the next four or five years. Once Elon Musk’s SpaceX has its Falcon launch vehicle in operation they hope to use that, as well as the Dnepr, to send ever more sophisticated and reliable systems into obit until sometime in the middle of the next decade they will be able to begin work on a habitable structure that can actually be called a real space hotel.
I am very excited about space tourism, and think that it could generate large bucks. However, I am more excited about the research and manufacturing opportunities this could represent. Imagine if universities had a station they could use for research. Perhaps, the Bigelow station bring to fruition the Space Frontier Foundation vision of an Alpha Town.

1 comment:

  1. Well, as far as I can tell, these inflatable modules for habitats have a lot going for them. You still have to truck up supplies/people to go in the module, but it eases construction and launching of large enclosed spaces.

    The transhab module was supposed to be better at shielding astronauts from impacts and radiation than aluminum modules. The kevlar derived layer, along with the ability to flex increases the ability to take impacts.

    Exciting stuff. I just wonder how large the pool of prospective customers is at current prices. $Millions/launch doesn't leave you with a lot of people, worldwide, to sell your product to. Prices may come down in the future, but that is dependent on the company making enough launches for the price to come down. (The classic chicken/egg space problem all over again).

    Hope they succeed.