Think Robert Bigelow’s much anticipated, sometimes ridiculed idea to build an orbiting space hotel from inflatable, habitable modules is something of a pipe dream? NASA apparently doesn’t think the technology is bunk. The space agency is reportedly in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to acquire one of its expandable modules for installation on the International Space Station.
That’s big news for both NASA and Bigelow. The Vegas-based aerospace firm has been working since 2009 to create inflatable space habitats for its own hotel as well as for corporate clients and government space agencies, going so far as to propose concepts for inflatable moon bases. It has launched two orbiting prototypes, Genesis I and Genesis II, but so far no government or corporate entity has bought into Bigelow’s technology, writes Clay Dillow for Popular Science in an interesting review.
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module [BEAM] would be attached to the International Space Station sometime near the middle of the decade if an agreement is signed later this year. Leonard David for Space.com reports that no agreement has been signed yet. Michael Gold, director of Washington, D.C., operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace LLC, based in Chevy Chase, Md. says, “But we’re looking forward to doing so in the near future and we’re pleased about the progress.”
Gold said Bigelow Aerospace is working with the ISS National Laboratory program, as well as the space agency’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Office of Chief Technologist. Officials in these offices “have supported and encouraged this initiative,” Gold said.
Gold has met with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority about the possible utilization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for future launches involving Bigelow Aerospace assets. Fox News has an interesting report on the privitization of space.