Bigelow and ULA plan expandable B330 orbital lunar space station in 2022

Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot.

“We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project,” said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace. “Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term. This lunar depot could be deployed easily by 2022 to support the nation’s re-energized plans for returning to the Moon.

“This commercial lunar depot would provide anchorage for significant lunar business development in addition to offering NASA and other governments the Moon as a new exciting location to conduct long-term exploration and astronaut training.”

The B330 would launch to Low Earth Orbit on a Vulcan 562 configuration rocket, the only commercial launch vehicle in development today with sufficient performance and a large enough payload fairing to carry the habitat. Once the B330 is in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace will outfit the habitat and demonstrate it is working properly. Once the B330 is fully operational, ULA’s industry-unique distributed lift capability would be used to send the B330 to lunar orbit. Distributed lift would also utilize two more Vulcan ACES launches, each carrying 35 tons of cryogenic propellant to low Earth orbit. In LEO, all of the cryogenic propellant would be transferred to one of the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES). The now full ACES would then rendezvous with the B330 and perform multiple maneuvers to deliver the B330 to its final position in Low Lunar Orbit.

“We are so pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Bigelow Aerospace,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “The company is doing such tremendous work in the area of habitats for visiting, living and working off our planet and we are thrilled to be the ride that enables that reality.”

Bigelow Aerospace is a destination-oriented company with a focus on expandable systems for use in a variety of space applications. These NASA heritage systems provide for greater volume, safety, opportunity and economy than the aluminum alternatives.

The B330 is a standalone commercial space station that can operate in low Earth orbit, cislunar space and beyond. A single B330 is comparable to one third of the current pressurized volume of the entire International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace is developing two B330 commercial space station habitats that will be ready for launch any time after 2020.

9 thoughts on “Bigelow and ULA plan expandable B330 orbital lunar space station in 2022”

  1. One of my concerns about a lunar orbiting station is that, for all intents and purposes, you might just as well be in interplanetary space for the purpose of Cosmic Ray exposure. Not somewhere you would want to be spending a long time in. If the term “depot” indicates that the intended use will be refueling/resupply of expeditions to or from the Moon’s surface instead of long term occupation, that is one thing. If not, I would want to know how long astronauts could stay there before hitting their annual/lifetime radiation exposure limits. There would also be potential exposure hazards from solar flares, but those could be addressed with a suitable “storm cellar” where the flare could be ridden out, but GCRs are chronic, rather than acute, exposure hazards.

    • ” you might just as well be in interplanetary space for the purpose of Cosmic Ray exposure ”

      As if that is not a worthy goal in and of itself. They way to learn to live off planet is to be off planet, starting with what we know.

  2. SpaceX should also think about putting a BFS minus rockets/fuel in orbit as a temporary space station, testing out all systems and fixing stuff until they’re able to keep a crew alive and in good health/spirits for a year. I couldn’t find the BFS dry mass, so not sure if it’d be possible to launch on a FH.

  3. It will be interesting to see how the different space companies and agencies locally and abroad respond to the big challenge posed by SpaceX, whatever the outcome.

    Because, like it nor not, this is a response to the tall claims made by SpaceX CEO in his IAC’16 and ’17 presentations, aligned with the stated government’s interest in returning USA people to the Moon ASAP.

    If Elon Musk is successful, these endeavors will be dwarfed. If he’s not, well, at least there will be more manned infrastructure in space than before, and some small steps would still have been done.

    • You know–without any payload at all–just a nose cone–BFR (minus the ITS craft) might make for a huge wet stage/tanker hull. Fill that sucker up for an insertion stage.

  4. While I’m certainly in favor of lunar development, it seems like being in lunar orbit is little better than being in Earth orbit to get things started. This is especially true if Mars is the eventual goal. I guess this is O’Neill thinking, a large orbital facility with the minimum on the Moon rather than a small orbital facility supporting build up on the Moon. Consider the following with Bigelow start:

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