NASA could join private customers for a permanant inflatable moonbase in the 2020s and become a tenant of a Bigelow spacestation after the International Space Station

Early information from Bigelow Aerospace finds private companies are interested in using a permanent moonbase by the 2020s. A study by Bigelow Aerospace, commissioned by NASA, shows ‘a lot of excitement and interest from various companies’ for moonbases and other space projects. The projects range from pharmaceutical research aboard Earth-orbiting habitats, to missions to the moon’s surface, he said on Thursday, citing a draft of the report due to be released in a few weeks. Bigelow Aerospace surveyed about 20 companies as well as foreign space agencies and research organizations for the NASA study. NASA expects to release the first part of Bigelow’s study within a few weeks. The second section is expected to be finished this fall.

SpaceX could launch an $18 million Bigelow inflatable module to the station from Cape Canaveral as soon as mid-2015.

NASA intends to use the information to figure out where it can collaborate with private space initiatives and where it might, for example, entirely skip an expensive research and development program and just buy services or hardware commercially.

In 2010, Bigelow revealed that the six “sovereign clients” had signed memoranda of understanding to utilize his orbital facilities: the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Sweden.

The International Space Station has a pressurized volume of 837 cubic meters

Bigelow showed off the design of the BA-2100 is over six times as large as the BA-330 and has multiple decks. The BA-2100’s docking ends are about 25 feet in diameter, and one source told PM that the module’s dry mass could be as low as 70 tons. In other words, in its uninflated state, it could be placed into orbit by the heavy-lift launcher (perhaps a Spacex Heavy). The massive structure could then be inflated and subsequently outfitted with materials carried aboard additional launches. With its radiation and micrometeoroid shielding, the BA-2100 could provide a trip for a large crew to the outer solar system.

After the International Space Station is removed from orbit, NASA could be a tenant aboard a Bigelow Aerospace-owned habitat for any microgravity research or technology development it wants to do.

“We think station can fly to 2028,” Gerstenmaier said.

Private business is interested in space for pharmaceutical development via an Earth orbiting facility to lunar based projects based mostly on mining operations. The moon is considered important both for its material composition and as a jumping off point for other ventures. NASA, for example, has indicated in the past that it envisions sending spacecraft on deep space missions using the moon as a construction base and departure point. Its low gravity makes getting into a space a lot easier.

The initial draft of the report created by Bigelow is to be delivered to NASA in the next few weeks. A second report, due in the fall is to more specifically detail private sector plans for space exploration.

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