Bigelow Aerospace has hired former NASA astronauts Kenneth Ham and George Zamka to form the cornerstone of the private astronaut corps the North Las Vegas, Nevada, company will need to maintain and operate the inflatable space habitats it plans to launch some time after 2017.
Bigelow said the smallest space station his company plans to fly will require two BA330 modules, each of which has 330 cubic meters of internal space. The company expects to finish building the first two BA330s by 2017, Bigelow said.
Ham and Zamka are former military aviators who have piloted and commanded space shuttle missions. Their NASA and military credentials are part of the appeal for Bigelow, who plans to put both former space fliers to work as recruiters.
“I would like to see us have half a dozen astronauts onboard by the end of the year,” Bigelow said.
Each Bigelow Aerospace space station would require about a dozen astronauts, including orbital, ground and backup personnel. The 660-cubic-meter stations would host four paying clients, who would be assisted by three company astronauts responsible for day-to-day maintenance, Bigelow said.
Initially, clients and crews would cycle in and out of the stations in 90-day shifts, Bigelow said. Eventually, the company hopes to shorten that cycle to 60 days.
“Our clients don’t need six months on orbit,” Bigelow said, referring to the time astronauts typically remain aboard the international space station. “It’s an imposition on them. They can get just as much out of three months.”
Zamka and Ham are part of a broader hiring push by Bigelow Aerospace. There are about 135 people in the North Las Vegas factory now, and “we’re hoping to be by Christmas time somewhere in the vicinity of 175,” Bigelow said
Bigelow Aerospace’s historic first commercial space station will open up extraordinary opportunities for countries across the globe. Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden could secure the future of their human spaceflight programs and dramatically increase the size of their astronaut corps. Smaller countries with no human spaceflight experience such as Singapore or the United Arab Emirates could take their first bold steps into space in a rapid and affordable fashion. The benefits to participating nations are many and varied. Developing an astronaut corps and conducting operations aboard a space station can dramatically transform a nation’s image (both internally and externally). The creation of jobs and lucrative economic opportunities via microgravity research, development, and manufacturing can inspire a new cadre of domestic scientists and engineers while attracting the best and brightest minds from around the world to a country’s universities and companies.
These commercial stations will also present unique opportunities for corporations to gain significant advantages over their competition.
The BA 330 would be a full-scale production module weighing approximately 43,000 pounds (20,000 kg),with dimensions of approximately 45 feet (14 m) in length and 22 ft (6.7 m) in diameter when expanded.
BA 330 compared a ISS Destiny
In December 2012, Bigelow began development work on Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) under a $17.8 million NASA contract. In 2015, BEAM is projected to be transported to ISS inside the unpressurized cargo trunk of a SpaceX Dragon during the SpaceX CRS-8 cargo mission.
The BA 2100, or Olympus module is a concept module that would require a heavy-lift launcher and would place in orbit the complete infrastructure of a 2,100-cubic-metre (74,000 cu ft) habitat, over six times as large as the BA 330. Initial estimates put the vehicle mass between 70-90 tonnes, with a diameter of approximately 41 feet (12 meters).
The Space Station Alpha complex was specified to be an in-space assemblage of exactly two BA-330 modules.
Space Complex Bravo would follow a couple of years after the Space Station Alpha. This complex would consist of four BA 330 modules.
Bravo woould have up to a crew of 24 people
Pressurised volume would be 1,320 m3 (47,000 cu ft) which is about 50% more than the 900 cubic meters of the ISS space station.
Other proposed Bigelow space station configurations are
Advanced Medical Facility (3000 m3) – Nine BA 330 modules, three propulsion buses with docking node, three crew capsules.
Biological Containment Station Low Earth Orbit (2800 m3 habitable, 660 m3 remotely controlled)
Biological Research Station Low Earth Orbit (2000 m3)
Deep Space Complex (1320 m3) – Four BA 330 modules, nine propulsion buses with docking node and three docking ports.
Lunar Depot Ares (990 m3) – Three BA 330 modules, four propulsion buses with docking nodes. The entire station would land directly onto the moon. It is intended to hold 12 astronauts but is capable of holding 18. Near the lunar base there would be a solar array field. A model of this concept has been built.
* Mars Exploration (1320 m3) – Four BA 330 modules, three propulsion buses with docking node.
* Resupply Depot Hercules (8300 m3) – Six BA 330 modules, three BA 2100 modules, nine propulsion buses with docking node and three crew capsules.
PB/DN: Combination of a Propulsion Bus attached to a Docking Node, weighs 17 mT
PB/DN Stack: Three PB/DNs attached to a Falcon Heavy that is on the Launch Pad
BA-330 Module: A Bigelow space station module that has a pressurized volume of 330 cubic meters, weighs 25 mT, and can hold 6 crew
BA-300 Stack: Two BA-300s attached to a Falcon Heavy that is on the Launch Pad
BA-2100 Module: A Bigelow space station module that has a pressurized volume of 2,100 cubic meters, weighs 100 mT, and can hold 16 crew
Hercules Space Station
(3) BA-2100 Modules
(6) BA-330 Modules
Hercules Space Station Weight
Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 100 mT = 300 mT
Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 25 mT = 150 mT
Three (3) PB/DNs = 3 * 17 mT = 51 mT
Therefore, the space station weighs 501 mT.
Hercules Space Station Crew Size
Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 16 Crew = 48 Crew
Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 6 Crew = 36 Crew
Therefore, the space station has a crew of 84.
Hercules Space Station Pressurized Volume
Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 2100 m^3 = 6,300 m^3
Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 330 m^3 = 1,980 m^3
Therefore, the space station has a pressurized volume of 8,280 m^3.
This also comes out to 99 m^3 per crew member.
Hercules Space Station Launching
Three (3) BA-2100s @ 1 SLS-IA per BA-2100 = 3 BA-2100 Stacks
Six (6) BA-330s @ 1 Falcon Heavy per two (2) BA-330s = 3 BA-330 Stacks
Three (3) PB/DNs @ 1 Falcon Heavy per three (3) PB/DNs = 1 PB/DN Stack
Hercules Space Station Cost Estimate
Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * $500,000,000 = $1,500,000,000
Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * $125,000,000 = $750,000,000
Three (3) PB/DNs = 3 * $75,000,000 = $225,000,000
Three (3) SLS-IA ELVs = 3 * $750,000,000 = $2,250,000,000
Four (4) Falcon Heavy ELVs = 4 * $150,000,000 = $600,000,000
Therefore, the space station has a total cost of $5,325,000,000 (USD).
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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