Spacex Falcon Heavy almost big enough to Launch Bigelow BA-2100

Bigelow Aerospace has designed a larger, heavier, and more capable expandable space station module, or interplanetary human transport module The BA 2100 would have a 2100 cubic meter volume and the BA 330 has a 330 cubic meter volume. The International space station has an internal volume of 1,000 cubic meters.

The weight of the module could be as low as 70 tonnes (150,000 lb) but for the BA-2100 would more likely be “in the range of 100 metric tonnes”, and is substantially larger than the BA 330, with the docking ends of the module alone estimated at approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter. The concept model showed the docking ports at both ends. The BA-2100 would require the use of a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle–and would require an 8-meter fairing for launch–a launch vehicle that does not currently exist.

The Spacex Falcon Heavy will be able to launch 50-60 tons then Bigelow could design a BA 1500 that would fit that launch capacity.

Spacex Falcon Heavy

Closeup of the BA2100 module

Spacex Falcon Heavy

Mass to LEO (200 km, 28.5 deg):    53,000 kg (117,000 lb)
Overall Length:                    69.2 m (227 ft)
Width (body):                      3.6 m (12 ft) x 11.6 m (38 ft)
Width (fairing):                   5.2 m (17 ft)
Mass on liftoff:                   1,400,000 kg (3,100,000 lb)
Thrust on liftoff:                 17 MN (3,800,000 lbf)

If allowed to compete, SpaceX can help the Department of Defense save at least one billion dollars annually in space launch services, while providing a truly independent family of vehicles to help assure access to space.

The Falcon Heavy is classified as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to launch satellites into orbit more economically. The program was intended to both secure access to space for the Department of Defense and other United States government payloads and lower costs by at least 25%, and with a goal of 50%.

Unfortunately, primarily due to lack of competition, costs have actually escalated–increasing by over 30% for FY 2012 alone. The total cost of the current program now exceeds $2.7B, with over $1B paid to a single provider just to sustain the program. That is one billion dollars per year, whether they launch or not.

Falcon Heavy with more than twice the payload but less than one third the cost of a Delta IV Heavy, will provide much needed relief to government and commercial budgets. This year, even as the Department of Defense budget was cut, the EELV launch program, which includes the Delta IV, still saw a thirty percent increase.

The 2012 Air Force budget includes $1.74B for four launches, an average of $435M per launch. With Falcon Heavy priced at $80-125M per launch SpaceX has the potential to provide the US government significant value. In addition, the medium-lift Falcon 9 could support a number of medium-lift Air Force launches at only $50-60M per launch, if SpaceX were allowed to compete for this business.

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