Astronauts George Zamka (left) and Kenneth Ham (right)

Space News reports that Bigelow Aerospace has hired two former NASA astronauts, Captain Kenneth Ham (USN) and Colonel George Zamka (USMC-ret.). The hi rings are said to represent the start of a commercial astronaut corps for the space stations Bigelow plans to launch beginning in 2017.

Capt. Ham is a former naval aviator with 6,000 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft, more than 300 carrier landings, and 612 hours in space. He flew two Space Shuttle missions to ISS, as pilot of Discovery on STS-124 in June, 2008 and commander of Atlantis on STS-132 in May, 2010.

Capt. Ham holds an MS in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently serves as chairman of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Col. Zamka has logged more than 5,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft and 692 hours in space on two Shuttle flights. Zamka flew to ISS as pilot of Discovery on STS-120 in October, 2007 and commander of Endeavour on STS-130 in February, 2010.

Col. Zamka left NASA in March 2013 to become Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration. Bigelow says that Zamka will remain in DC to provide a company interface with the US government as well as foreign customers.

Written by Astro1 on July 11th, 2014 , Bigelow Aerospace

Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace recently conducted a drop test of the CST-100 capsule at Delamar Dry Lake Bed in Nevada.

Boeing is developing the CST-100 primarily to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, but Bigelow hopes to use CST-100 to transport astronauts to its own Space Station Alpha, which may be ready as soon as 2015.

Boeing built the US components of the International Space Station. It also inherited the space divisions of McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell International, which built Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle, as well as the X-15. It’s strange to hear politicians and pundits say that CCDev contractors like Boeing have no experience with manned space systems.

Written by Astro1 on September 24th, 2013 , Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing

BigelowAerospace Space Station Alpha

Bigelow Aerospace has posted pricing information for its Alpha Station, which Bigelow expects to be ready for launch by late 2016.

Bigelow Aerospace will offer visits to Alpha for $26.25 million, with transport on a SpaceX Dragon capsule, or $36.75 million, with transport on the Boeing CST-100 capsule. The price includes a 10-60 day stay aboard the space station. These prices compare favorably to the $40 million which the Russian Space Agency is currently asking for a one-week stay aboard the International Space Station. The price includes astronaut training and qualification.

For customers that want exclusive and control over on-orbit facilities, Bigelow is offering lease blocks. One-third of a BA-330 module (110 cubic meters, roughly equal to an entire ISS module) will cost $25 million for 60 days. With transportation for one astronaut via the SpaceX Dragon, exclusive use over 110 cubic meters of volume for 60 days would cost $51.25 million. Bigelow will allow customers to sublease space aboard a lease block and resell purchased seats.

Bigelow is also offering name sponsorships. Naming rights are available for the entire station at $25 million per year or an individual module at $12.5 million per year. These are similar to prices sponsors have paid recently for naming rights to major sports stadiums.

Written by Astro1 on February 5th, 2013 , Bigelow Aerospace, Space Stations

Boeing CST-100 capsule docks at Bigelow Aerospace space station

Stewart Money at Innerspace has some additional details from the NASA/Bigelow press conference. This part is particularly interesting:

Bigelow announced that the transport price to the station, would be $26.25 million aboard a SpaceX Dragon, or $36.75 million aboard a Boeing CST-100. The 40% price difference is almost certainly due to the much higher cost of the Boeing’s Atlas V launch vehicle, as compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9. The gap could become even more pronounced if Congress ultimately removes the large annual subsidy going to United Launch Alliance in the form of the Launch Capability Contract which is currently on the order of nearly $100 million per flight at current rates.

If this is true, we wonder how Boeing plans to make money. It’s hard to believe that many customers would voluntarily pay $10.5 more for what is essentially the same service.

This might explain why Boeing is reportedly investing very little of its own money in the CST-100. Given a price disadvantage like this, they might not have any customers beyond NASA.

On the other hand, it’s possible Boeing might consider switching the CST-100 to the Falcon 9. Boeing has previously said that CST-100 is booster agnostic. Last year, Boeing said the CST-100 would fly on either the Atlas V or ATK Liberty (the rocket formerly known as Ares I). Liberty is also likely to be a very expensive rocket, besides being vaporware at the moment.

Written by Astro1 on January 18th, 2013 , Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, SpaceX

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module for International Space Station

New details about the $17.8-million Bigelow Expandable Activity Module for ISS were revealed today.

According to Irene Klotz at Reuters, the inflatable module will weigh 3,000 pounds. It will measure 13 feet long and 10.5 feet in diameter. This is about the same size as the free-flying Genesis I and II modules, which Bigelow already has in orbit, but a slightly different shape.

NASA has not yet formed definite plans for how astronauts will use the new module, which will be delivered in mid-2015 by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Bigelow is interested in using the module to study how the presence of crew affects an inflatable module.

The module will be installed on the International Space Station’s Node 3. NASA has already purchased the Falcon flight for the module, according to Leonard David at Space.com.

Clark Lindsey at New Space Watch reports that the module will be delivered on the eighth flight of the SpaceX Dragon capsule using the capsule’s unpressurized cargo section.

In another interesting development, Bigelow has named the seven sovereign customers who’ve expressed interest in leasing space aboard a future Bigelow commercial space station. Bigelow has preliminary agreements with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Sweden and the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, according to Reuters.

According to another report by Leonard David, Bigelow expects to have two BA 330 modules ready for construction of Space Station Alpha by late 2016. The Bigelow 330 is a much larger module, weighing 43,000 pounds with a diameter of 22 feet and length of 31 feet.

Bigelow Aerospace previously announced that it plans to charge sovereign customers $23 million for a 30-day stay aboard a Bigelow space station. That price includes space transportation, astronaut training, and consumables. Boeing hopes to supply transportation to the station using its CST-100 capsule, as shown in the following video.

Written by Astro1 on January 16th, 2013 , Bigelow Aerospace, Space Stations

NASA has signed a $17.8 million contract with Bigelow Aerospace for a new ISS module.

Update: See new details here.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) could be delivered to the International Space Station within 24 months by a SpaceX Falcon 9 or Orbital Sciences Antares rocket. BEAM would provide ISS astronauts with extra storage space while providing data on the performance of inflatable modules in the space environment.

Bigelow has been doing unfunded studies for several years. These pictures are from a NASA presentation back in 2010.

Bigelow Aerospace inflatable module for International Space Station -- External view

Bigelow Aerospace inflatable module for International Space Station -- internal view

Written by Astro1 on January 8th, 2013 , Bigelow Aerospace