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Satnews Daily
April 12th, 2016

Bigelow's Spatial Habitats Involve United Launch Alliance Boost

Bigelow Aerospace (BA) and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are partnering to develop and deploy habitable volumes in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The interior of a B330 expandable space module.

Image credit, Bigelow Aerospace.

The volumes will be based on the Bigelow Aerospace B330 expandable module with the initial launch to orbit in 2020 on ULA's Atlas V 552 configuration launch vehicle. The B330 will have 330 cubic meters (12,000 cu ft) of internal space. The craft will support zero-gravity research including scientific missions and manufacturing processes. Beyond its industrial and scientific purposes, however, it has potential as a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars.

Development of Bigelow’s B330 is well underway as is the integration of the B330 to the Atlas V. The companies are working together to develop the business construct, commercial product offerings and marketing plans. Once the habitat is proven and markets are established, additional B330’s will be deployed to other locations, even the moon and Mars, to meet increasing demand for habitable volumes in space.

Options for the location of the initial B330 that also include discussions with NASA on the possibility of attaching the unit to the International Space Station (ISS) area also underway, according to Robert Bigelow, the founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace. If the ISS configuration, the B330 will increase the volume of the ISS by 30 percent. The unit would then function as a multipurpose tested in support of various NASA exploration goals and other commercial opportunities. "The working name for this module is XBASE, or, Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement," said Bigelow.

Tory Bruno, the ULA president and CEO, indicates this is an innovative and game-changing advance that will dramatically increase opportunities for space research in various disciplines. Plus, the B330 enables destinations in space for countries, corporations and even individuals far beyond what is available to them today. “This effectively democratizes space," he said.