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Have you ever wondered when it will be possible for the average person to spend a night in space as easily as they can check into a hotel? That day may be closer than you might think. Bigelow aerospace is a private space company that is working more aggressively than any other private company before it to make affordable space habitats a reality. The man behind this is Robert Bigelow. He already made billions with the Budget Hotel chain he founded and now he is looking to expand his real estate to the stars. You may wonder how even a billionaire can foot the bill of putting space station in orbit. The International Space Station cost 100 billion to build and it is still not complete. The answer will surprise you.
Bigelow is pursuing research on an idea that NASA discarded back in the 1990s. The concept revolves around an inflatable space station module. The idea is simple yet brilliant. An inflatable space station would be lighter and if manufacturing processes are standardized cheaper to make. All around this would make launching it into orbit and setting it up much more affordable than the current costs. The other advantage is space. The BA series of modules in development by Bigelow Aerospace easily double the space of modules on the ISS. The upcoming large scale module would double that capacity even further.
A concern any industry expert would have is that if you put what is essentially a big balloon in space, what kind of protection does it provide the astronauts from radiation and high speed objects? It would mean either being fried or having the structure collapse on its inhabitants when popped. Solutions have already been made to address these concerns the company plans to use a Kevlar weave as the main material with special coatings to helps screen out cosmic radiation. This would make it more than able to withstand the harsh environment of space. Otherwise it will work like normal space station using solar power to power the station.
Major progress has been made in commercial space industries due to the heavy investment of Bigelow Aerospace. Bigelow invested over 150 million dollars of his own money from 1998 to present and is committed to investing another $500 million towards the launch of a fully operational space station by 2015. This much advancement is drawing the potential of major players in building space stations and private space craft. NASA now wants to test Bigelow modules on the International Space Station.
If you’d like more info on Bigelow Aerospace, check out Bigelow Aerospace’s Official Website. And here’s a link to NASA’s article about the Bigelow spacecraft’s test flight to space.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast about the space shuttle. Listen here, Episode 127: The US Space Shuttle.
Source: Bigelow Aerospace