Print 24 comment(s) - last by Ammohunt.. on Jan 15 at 5:29 PM

Bigelow Aerospace's expandable modules  (Source:
Further details about the partnership and scheduling will be released on Wednesday, according to NASA

After much success with SpaceX, NASA has decided to bring another commercial space company onboard -- but this time, it's for an International Space Station (ISS) remodel.

NASA has awarded commercial space company Bigelow Aerospace a total of $17.8 million to create an expandable module for the ISS.

Bigelow Aerospace, which was founded in 1998, has been building expandable spacecraft with the intention of using them on missions. In 2006 and 2007, the company successfully launched its prototypes into orbit.

Now, NASA wants Bigelow Aerospace to use its expandable modules to develop a bigger space station.

Further details about the partnership and scheduling will be released on Wednesday, according to NASA.

“This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

NASA took a chance with private, California-based space company SpaceX when the government agency retired its space shuttle fleet throughout 2011. SpaceX stepped up in order to provide American astronauts a way to the ISS without hitching an expensive ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket. In 2012, SpaceX's Dragon made an initial successful cargo trip to the ISS in May and its first official cargo trip later in October.

It is rumored that SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace will make a trip together in 2015.

The ISS, which launched in 1998, will deorbit and be sent to the ocean around 2020 according to deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov.

Source: Forbes

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By Samus on 1/14/2013 12:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
those things look huge

RE: wow
By Manch on 1/14/2013 1:16:03 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what they look like shrunk down? How do they hold up to space debris?

RE: wow
By DockScience on 1/14/2013 2:07:19 PM , Rating: 2
I would much rather be surrounded by hydrogen rich polymers than aluminum when either micrometeorites/debris OR cosmic rays zip through.

RE: wow
By Manch on 1/14/2013 2:49:33 PM , Rating: 3
If they zip thru then aren't you screwed either way?

RE: wow
By GulWestfale on 1/14/2013 10:19:13 PM , Rating: 2

i have to think that every time i see the name bigelow somewhere, and i hate wrestling. sad.

RE: wow
By TSS on 1/14/2013 10:34:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well in the case of "either way" there's still stuff to be said for fabrics over solid materials such as aluminium. If it's punctured either way, there'll be less structural damage to the rest of the ship other then what was in direct path of the debris, as little of the force is transferred to the rest of the ship. After all, in an either way situation the people in that compartment are screwed anyway.

In case of actually stopping debris, it's all about dispersing energy. An air cushion is a very good way to disperse energy, and in case of collision with a large object it might very well be that it "bounces" out of the way, rather then shatter.

This's only when it collides with a sattelite or a small rock though, once you start talking anything larger then a your average pumpkin it doesn't matter what you make your space station out of.

RE: wow
By GotThumbs on 1/14/2013 4:48:58 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think they expand like balloons or accordions. I believe the term expansion describes the fact that they will expand the volume of the ISS. This is purely conjecture on my part of course.

It would be helpful/interesting to find out more details. Hopefully the writer will see inquiring minds what to know more details.

Best wishes,

RE: wow
By GotThumbs on 1/14/2013 4:52:28 PM , Rating: 3
Did some Googling and found the companies website. Here's the text from their main page. My apologies for not checking this first as I was completely wrong in my first post.

The concept of utilizing expandable, or, as referred to in the past, ‘inflatable’ spacecraft and space systems is not a new idea. The history of inflatable space systems goes back to the very beginning of America’s space program. As a matter of fact, the inflatable Echo 1 and Echo 2, the world’s first passive communications satellites, were one of the inaugural projects taken on in 1958 by a new federal agency called NASA. Boasting a diameter close to the height of a 10-story building, the Echo satellites have been described as “perhaps the most beautiful object[s] ever to be put into space.” The challenge that these first NASA engineers faced was how to place such a large structure into the relatively tiny fairing of a Thor-Delta rocket. The ultimate solution was to use an inflatable system, which led to the development of the Echo 1, 1A, and 2, and a brand new substance that the satellite was made out of called ‘Mylar’.

RE: wow
By Samus on 1/15/2013 12:56:19 PM , Rating: 2
RE: wow
By GotThumbs on 1/14/2013 4:54:21 PM , Rating: 3
Here's a direct link to the companies website:

RE: wow
By GotThumbs on 1/14/2013 4:57:21 PM , Rating: 2
These things are pretty cool. You can link dozens of them together for the first hotel in space. Trump might be working on this already with Virgin.

RE: wow
By Manch on 1/14/2013 5:32:23 PM , Rating: 1
I remember the space hotel concept from a few years ago and when they sent up there first inflatable pods. I'm just curious about how sturdy they are, or how they have addressed the threat of space debris

RE: wow
By JediJeb on 1/14/2013 5:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
From what I remember they are polyethylene and Kevlar shells, so they should be at least as resistant to space debris as the relatively thin shell of the current ISS.

RE: wow
By Manch on 1/14/2013 6:19:17 PM , Rating: 1
oh ok, cool. It would be cool if they used this to set up an outpost on the moon!

RE: wow
By delphinus100 on 1/14/2013 8:46:38 PM , Rating: 3
oh, it's part of the long-range plan...

...though I'd think they'd also make an attempt to cover the modules with some degree of Lunar regolith, for additional protection from meteorites, solar and galactic cosmic radiation and day/night temperature extremes.

If there are caves and stable, uncollapsed lava tubes (we know the Moon has lava tubes that have collapsed) that can be accessed without much trouble, placing modules like these within them could be even better.

RE: wow
By delphinus100 on 1/14/2013 8:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
How do they hold up to space debris?

At least as well as the alternatives. This is the stuff of body armor, not party balloons. There's nothing that can penetrate them, that would not also penetrate an aluminum hull.

Google 'Vectran'

Not impressed
By Ammohunt on 1/14/13, Rating: 0
RE: Not impressed
By Manch on 1/14/2013 2:51:12 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they can make a wagon wheel out of these. Since these expand, it would be easier to get all the parts into space.

RE: Not impressed
By Ammohunt on 1/14/2013 4:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
It would solve a few of the the problems with long term space flight main one being lack of gravity just not sure this generation of engineers have any imagination.

RE: Not impressed
By Manch on 1/14/2013 5:33:50 PM , Rating: 1
Maybe the private industry will get there first. At the rate Virgin is going, they may get there hotels in space soon enough.

RE: Not impressed
By delphinus100 on 1/14/2013 8:53:05 PM , Rating: 2
Those same engineers know how much more complicated a rotating station would be, and to get 1G without intolerably fast rotation rates and Coriolis Force issues, you're pushed to large structures. It doesn't work as well on a small scale.

Space transportation of materials and people to orbit isn't very cheap yet. How deep are your pockets?

RE: Not impressed
By Ammohunt on 1/15/2013 5:29:25 PM , Rating: 2
If they were smart they would have already had invested in a method to ship raw materials to space and build the parts for a larger space station in a space "factory" taking full advantage of zero g making exotic materials such as foam metal to build with. Then move the space station to a Lagrange point spin it and call it done. Not saying its easy but building a throw away space station is just pure stupidity.

On a side note we should have had a moon base 30 years ago; Plenty of resources on the moon with the proper heat source you could make ships and or space stations out of moon glass or who knows what.

A good night's sleep
By Dfere on 1/14/13, Rating: -1
RE: A good night's sleep
By JediJeb on 1/14/2013 5:52:26 PM , Rating: 2
Radiation Protection: Bigelow Aerospace’s shielding is equivalent to or better than the International Space Station and substantially reduces the dangerous impact of secondary radiation.

Ballistic Protection: BA 330 utilizes an innovative Micrometeorite and Orbital Debris Shield. Hypervelocity tests conducted by Bigelow Aerospace have demonstrated that this shielding structure provides protection superior to that of the traditional “aluminum can” designs. Propulsion:

Taken from the Bigelow website. I think I could sleep as comfortably inside one of these as I could the ISS. These are not simply mylar balloons for sure.

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