Interview – John Bilcow on the Work to a Next Generation Space Station

John Blincow is the President of the Gateway Foundation.

John Blincow has worked as a pilot for 24 years, flying all over the world in such aircraft as the Boeing 757, DC-10, and Boeing 747-400. John Blincow’s experience as a pilot instructor includes United Airlines, Boeing Flight Safety, and as a security instructor for The Transportation Security Administration (TSA). John Blincow graduated with a B.A. from Cal State San Bernardino in 1996.

Gateway Foundation has plans to build a circular space station that can hold 400 people. This will be called the Von Braun station. It will have twenty-four modules that are each 12 meters in diameter by 20 meters in length. There will be a ferris wheel like frame and a center hub and elevators. Each module will have about 8000 cubic meters in volume. There will be connecting docking areas for 24 Dream Chasers as lifeboats to enable full evacuation of the structure. The entire Von Bruan structure will have about 300,000 cubic meters of volume. This will be about 300 times more than the International Space Station.

The Von Braun will have the volume of a large cruise ship.

The pill-shaped modules look like Bigelow B330 or Bigelow B2100 modules but they are far larger. They are much fatter. They are also not inflatable.

The capacity of the lifeboats is the limiting factor for the habitation of the station.

They believe that in the first few years of a SpaceX Super Heavy Starship the launch costs will be about $40 million per launch. The launch mass will be about 100 tons. Despite high levels of full reusability the costs will stay higher due to the refurbishment needed for the launch pad. The Falcon Heavy and Super Heavy will degrade the launch facility substantially. The maintenance of the launch pads will eventually be reduced with further upgrades.

Each of the modules could be sold as facilities for countries or major corporations.

It will take about 30-40 launches of a Super Heavy Starship to launch the Von Braun Station. This would be fewer launches than the International Space Station. The costs will be far less because Gateway will try to use $40 million Super Heavy launches instead of $1 billion or more for Space Shuttle launches.

The Von Bruan Station could be occupied and begin operation with as few as 4-6 launches. They would create the hub and the ferris wheel frame, elevators and place the first two modules and Dream Chasers onto the station. Even with two modules the Von Braun would have about twenty times the volume of the International Space Station.

There is a plan to add large amounts of solar power. This could be 4 megawatts or more. This is thirty to fifty times more than the International Space Station.

To build the Von Bruan Station Gateway they will first construct an automated space drone robots called GSAL. The GSAL will create segments that are each unique for that part of The Gateway: For instance, to create the Hub we will weld together a series of square segments; to create ring sections the GSAL will reconfigure its beam guides to fabricate wedge shaped segments. In this manner the outer shell of The Gateway can be erected fast and welded tight around airlocks so workers can finish the interior without the use of heavy spacesuits. It is important to build The Gateway fast so it can generate revenue sooner. But safety will never take a back seat in space construction or operations. Once completed The Gateway will face months of operational testing to insure redundant safety systems will all function as designed.

This is the critical year for the Gateway Foundation. They have thousands of members but they will start selling stock and fundraising. The next step is to create the first triangular version of the GSAL construction robotic drone.

Construction capabilities in space will be the initial business and a critical path capability for the Von Bruan Station.

There will be many developments and announcements from Gateway Foundation this year and hopefully many more in the coming years. They will be starting their business and raising funds and releasing many new plans and progress reports.

SOURCES- Interview with John Bilkow, Gateway Foundation
Written By Brian Wang,

29 thoughts on “Interview – John Bilcow on the Work to a Next Generation Space Station”

  1. Good point, I hadn’t thought of it from that practical standpoint. In a high pucker factor event every second counts. Liked, thank you for pointing that out.

  2. We (humans) should build this in LEO or next higher than LEO orbit (take advantage of radiation-protecting earth magnetosphere), then use it as a “construction trailer” to build the next gen “Elysium-esque” gateway in LEO or next higher than LEO orbit and launch this one to moon orbit to become the new moon gateway for mining and exploratory operations on the moon. -After that (both are built and in their respective orbits), we should also build a moon materials processing facility near the moon gateway that can take in moon regolith, refine it and turn out large quantities of construction materials for building ever larger lagrange point colony structures or other craft to take humans to Mars or asteroids (more mining on asteroids). Big possibilites!

  3. Yes, in the 1930s. From the perspective of a century later I think most people are aware that both sides were using gas… and probably don’t know or care any more than that.

  4. “Some ablative shield drop pods for escape pods would probably be cheaper than Dream Chasers too.”

    Especially as ingress to the DCs in this configuration, would be like entering a tail door of an airplane standing on its nose…

  5. It’s the poison gas part that had people refusing to shake his hand when he fled Germany in the ’30s.

  6. “because that is the entire justification and it’s not even mentioned in this presentation,”
    please see ppg 9-10:
    “< 1/10 th cost per kWe-h of alternatives”
    “Secondly, the whole thing about the receiving rectennas”
    please see ppg 11,12 and 13 for much more excitement about rectennae use for Earth to Earth power balancing and C02 trapping.

  7. (Hit length limit “before”)
    Rectennae and power beaming are more general SSP ideas, and money and research is avail far beyond LSP. In fact, if you are not already on the O’Neill/SSP bandwagon, I see little that LSP will offer your point of view. Just more jibberish!

  8. There are no details to compare his details to! Tell me how much the sat itself costs(include lunar launch(I presume mass driver!), station keeping, light pollution and Space junk), and LSP will NOT have any of that cost, as a starting point. The cell area is ~3-5 more(but cheaper per area as the cells are just sitting there, not suspended), and the radar is ~2 the power, altho spreading out for a larger aperture may also cost. How can anyone think the built sats are even in the race?
    But the bigger point here is that Criswell has been doing this for over 30 years, and not much has changed in his basic idea. Why should he have to compare to each new SPS idea? LSP should be the starting benchmark, as it is so simple in concept. Others should have to meet it. And justify their far more complex ideas.
    Also, so much of the costs are in lock-step for both LSP and SPS that the comparisons will be based on ratios or added needs rather than hard $ amounts. Better cells help both plans. Cheaper rockets help both plans. So does already having the sat!
    And nobody is prohibited from doing an INDEPENDENT cost estimate to see what is going on here. As long as the LSP idea is understood, that would not seem so hard. Impossible otherwise! Criswell’s *best* presentation is 10 years old.
    The rectennae co-use with ag is mentioned, and they actually get more power than the same area of cells on Earth, but rely on cells in Space, so the overall systems (Earth cells v SSP) have to be compared.

  9. I would expect that most people don’t have too much of a problem with a connection with WWI Germany. Yeah they were on the other side, but France and even the USA were on the other side during the Napoleonic wars. Go back far enough and nobody cares.

    Now Ferdinand Porsche was on the German side in WWII, and nobody is embarrassed about that any more.

    *To be fair, just about all the projects that Porsche actually did during WWII seemed to never go anywhere and just chewed up resources. This is in keeping with my theory that a lot of WWII German tech projects were just Engineers and Scientists trying to make sure they spent the whole war in a nice, safe laboratory working on blue sky research that would never help the war effort but, ideally, would get them a cushy job in the USA when the war inevitably ended as everyone knew it would.

  10. It would be good if he actually had some details on the

    at least 10 times cheaper than constructed SPSs

    because that is the entire justification and it’s not even mentioned in this presentation, and only casually stated without justification in any other thing that you’ve linked.

    Secondly, the whole thing about the receiving rectennas is that they are much, much cheaper than the same area of solar cells. Otherwise what’s the point? So maybe that should be mentioned at least once?

  11. It would be much bigger then the BA 2100, but the BA 2100 is FAR more realistic & practical. The 2100 could be launched with one Starship launch, much more likely to happen.

    The Von Braun Station is supposedly not inflatables, so 12 meter diameter doesn’t make sense…unless its just old, and still based off of early Starship plans (Interplanetary Transport System), which was 12 meter diameter.

    Either way, I wish them the best of luck.

  12. ARPA for Space certainly interesting! LSP is just a special variant of Space Solar Power SSP, which usu means Solar Power Sats SPS. NSSO did an assessment of SSP about 10+ years ago, for launched SPS to support remote bases. They said could be very expensive and still cheaper than running diesel thru enemy territory. And earlier, NASA Fresh Look did launched SPS study, excluding ISRU as too far out, and concluded that SPS was too expensive because of launch costs. Ahem.
    The military should take the lead in power beaming. Establishing the frequencies would really help!

  13. Criswell used to work for NASA as just such an analysist, for proposed projects. It is too important a topic, global heating, not to mention opening Space, to just wait for others to approve, don’t you think?

  14. Please read the proposal, as it starts by covering those obvious things. Then concludes that it is at least 10 times cheaper than constructed SPSs. Particularly for 20-200Tw-e, the needed power to *solve* global heating. And the sunlight situation is even worse than “only half”, as the cells do not always point at the sun directly as it traverses the lunar sky. Not to mention that the Moon is only *up* about a third of the time, for transmission, from most Earth locations. Still far better than other options, a profit at $.01 per kw-h elect. And it opens Space! Check it out and find *new* problems to solve.

  15. Not sure. I would support funding if it made it through a review and approval process from ARPA-E. That would be considering the cost vs. gain analysis and risk of the project. Also whether they have other ideas that they would find more attractive. Sorry, I’m not an engineer or physicist and know my limitations.

    Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind seeing something like ARPA-E get set up for space. They seem to be pretty successful and as we say in the military “reinforce success”.

  16. It’s a dumb idea because your transmitter aperture needs to be ten times larger relative to synchronous orbit, and you only get sunlight half the time.

    There’s a reason all the SPS studies assumed synchronous or lower orbits.

  17. Believe me, you’re preaching to the choir. Our technologies and resources have caught up to the task, it’s time to get off our hands and get serious about space. We will probably need public private cooperation to start with to bridge the gap between what needs to be done, and the profitability that will make it explode in growth, but it is time. If we do not China or some other country will. Personally I’m not excited about ceding the low hanging fruit in space to some other country and letting them reap the easy profits and advantages. Use it or lose it.

  18. Doesn´t really looks much larger than the Bigelow 2100. I did not find the lenght and diameter of these modules.

    If the idea is to launch them inside a Starship Cargo version, their max diameter must be about 9 meters, right?

  19. There are a lot of people with very mixed legacies.
    Look up Haber.
    He devised a way to turn atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia thus making fertilizer much cheaper, and explosives for warfare much cheaper. Without that Germany would have only lasted months in WWI. He was also to a large extent responsible for German use of poison gas in WWI. BTW he was Jewish & had to leave Germany in the 1930s

  20. We’ve been “crazy” not to do ISRU experiments since O’Neill first published. No matter how hard at first. Musk is an unexpected miracle compared to what we had as rockets.

  21. That takes what was a very complicated issue and reduces it to a very simple one…which is the wrong thing to do. Regardless of what he did it is what he became.

    Put the past behind you and stop counting all the wrongs. The end of that road leads to a desert as its inevitable conclusion is a witch hunt to find those who have commited no sin. You will start with huge ones and end with the tiniest and the winner will be the ones with the most guns to inherit the wasteland.

  22. Agreed! The Falcon Heavy will turn many things from possible to “we’re crazy not to”. Elon Musk will go down in history no doubt about it.

  23. Von Braun was a German SS officer involved in committing war crimes in his factory. Not sure we should stain our future with somebody like him.

  24. So, at $40 million per launch and say 50 launches (to build in some fudge factor) it would only cost $2 billion to launch the whole thing with the heavy?!? Say it cost another 30 billion to build the hardware this is still vastly lower cost than the ISS. The ISS ran $150 billion+ to build and is far smaller and less user friendly. This $32 billion figure is a rounding error in our tax base per year.

    Some ablative shield drop pods for escape pods would probably be cheaper than Dream Chasers too.

    I am not sure how useful this space station would be compared to other ideas for developing space and the moon commercially or for the Space Force. With our military budget there should be no reason why we couldn’t have one just for the military. That being said, it seems like we need some public private partnerships to get things moving faster. Something like COTS would be a good idea, it seemed to work getting us SpaceX in the first place.

Comments are closed.