Bigelow Aerospace in talks for ISS spot, pulls fast one on NASA…

Cutaway of NASA's TransHab module, father of Bigelow Aerospace technology, docked with the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

I have been staggeringly busy of late, so this post will only be a brief one.  There is much in the works.  (More on that soon.)

In any event, I was stunned to read last week (in a piece from renowned space reporter Leonard David from that NASA is in talks to purchase an inflatable module from Bigelow Aerospace for the International Space Station.

In all senses, this is a complete coup.  Why?  -The technology Bigelow Aerospace purchased and developed for their inflatable habitats was based on NASA’s TransHab, which itself was an inflatable module designed to be tested on the International Space Station(!).  (For those unfamiliar, TransHab was intended to be a forerunner for future Mars and deep-space astronaut habitats.)

Bigelow is selling NASA’s abandoned technology back to them.  It’s brilliant! 

-And, I might add, this is just another instance of a NewSpace corporate space endeavor outpacing government-run space activity.  If these talks prove fruitful, I think having rescued politically-torpedoed technology and successfully developing it means that the business case for NewSpace has been completely proved out. 

Where bureaucracy and politics fail, private industry can succeed.

Two cents.

Bigelow Aerospace's BA 330 inflatable module. Note the distinct family resemblance to TransHab, with Mars in the background, to boot! (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

4 thoughts on “Bigelow Aerospace in talks for ISS spot, pulls fast one on NASA…

  1. There is nothing fast or sleezy about this. The 1999 Congress killed NASA’s ambitions to go BEO. They pushed a bill that said that NASA was to stop all activities that might allow ANY BEO. That included Transhab. Clinton objected, but still signed that bill. However, he encouraged NASA to sell off or help start each items. Bigelow bought transhab, HOWEVER, ILC-Dover is also working on something similar. Likewise, VASIMR was spun off into a start-up that NASA basically funded (sadly, a lot of work went to Costa Rica, rather than staying with USA). The laser drilling went to Colorado school of mines which is now quietly going to go into Foro Energy of Longmont. And I applaud NASA for doing this. If CONgress was so short sighted, then thankfully, NASA pushed it through regardless. Heck, the COTS idea actually was designed in 1995, but was shot down by 1996 CONgress. Thankfully, Griffin picked it up and continued the work.

    This same approach is exactly what NASA is doing with launch vehicles. We do not need ONE SHLV. We need MULTIPLE rockets of similar sizes. That way, WHEN an accident occurs (and it will), we will not shut down our entire launch system. That is why we need to kill this new jobs bill that CONgress pushed and instead, put up COTS-SHLV to develop 2 SHLV. SpaceX is claiming that they can within 5 years have a 150 tonne SHLV for under 2.5 b and costs less than 300m to launch. Well, the direct version (which is what the new bill pushed) will take longer than 7 years and cost more than 10 billion, and I would guess that each launch will be at a costs of over 1B for 70 tonnes.

    If we are going to go BEO, then we need to stop jobs bills and encourage private space to take up the slack.

    1. Grr – I completely agree. Private industry is where I believe we’ll be able to make the large strides into space exploration, and government-subsidized competition isn’t helping anyone. And as for the “fast one” comment, I was being tongue-in-cheek. (I liked the situational irony of Bigelow now being in talks to provide TransHab back to the station, essentially.) Thanks for commenting!


  2. There have been to date 60 countries who are in some form of negotiations with Bigelow Aerospace for his modules. It was based on reasonable projections of ‘genesis I’ & IIs performances in LEO that you can have space capabilities on essentially a small industrial park budget. The ISS is an impressive structure, but so is the Empire State building. And most commercial real estate ventures, design for utility and the competitive cost of what a market can bear.NASA owned the licenses, but had no developmental capital for this as a ‘project’. Bigelow took the risks & delivered a company that can compete in the affordable space station market.This rather shows an alternative pathway on ‘how’ to develop space for people who really want to do something other than waste time debating over ‘what congressional district’ will get this project? For less than a $ billion dollars you could have more assets in space than the whole ISS combined, and not a 10 year schedule but a ten day schedule!

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