|Rendering of the BA 330|
|Launch||no earlier than 2017|
|Mass||20,000 kilograms (43,000 lb)|
|Length||9.5 m (31.2 ft)|
|Diameter||6.7 m (22.0 ft)|
|Pressurised volume||330 m3 (11,654 cu ft)|
The BA 330 (previously known as the Nautilus space complex module) is the complete, full-scale production model of Bigelow Aerospace's expandable space habitation module program. It will have 330 cubic metres (12,000 cu ft) of internal space, hence its numeric designation.
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.
The habitat could be ready to launch as early as 2017.
A number of features make this form of expandable space station technology particularly well-suited for its purpose.
- It offers a large habitable space for crews to live and conduct experiments in. The exterior of the craft is intended to be 14 metres (45 ft) long by 6.7 metres (22 ft) in diameter.
- It can be relatively light for its size, weighing between 20,000 kilograms (45,000 lb) and 23,000 kilograms (50,000 lb), making it easier to place large amounts of volume in orbit.[note 1]
- Its skin, made of high-strength textiles and Vectran-like materials, is wrapped with several layers of high-tension straps. It is particularly resistant to damage from micrometeoroids and space debris.
Pressurized volume of a single 20 ton BA 330 module is 330 m3, compared to 106 m3of the 15 ton ISS Destiny module (BA 330 has 210% more habitable space, while having only 33% higher mass). BA 330 thus provides significant increase in habitable space per unit of mass lifted into space compared to traditional rigid "tin can" modules.
BA 330 wall thickness is approximately 0.46 metres (18 in) when the module is fully expanded, and is made up of 24 to 36 layers for ballistic protection, thermal protection and radiation protection.
The module's large size is particularly beneficial for lunar astronauts or the crews of other long-duration space missions, which until now have been restricted to fairly cramped quarters for the several-day flight.
When expanded the outer shell is as hard to the touch as concrete.
The BA 330 design architecture is built on module-independent provision of needed services:
- Electrical power is provided by solar arrays and batteries.
- Module-specific avionics are provided for navigation, re-boost, docking and other on-orbit maneuvering.
- Environmental control and life support system to support up to six persons, including lavatory and hygiene facilities.
- Four large windows coated with a UV protection film will support both terrestrial and celestial viewing.
While many details about how Bigelow has evolved the purchased TransHab technology have not been published, NASA states the following about the structure of the module that Bigelow adopted as a starting point:
With almost two dozen layers, TransHab's foot-thick inflatable shell is a marvel of innovative design. The layers are fashioned to break up particles of space debris and tiny meteorites that may hit the shell with a speed seven times as fast as a bullet. The outer layers protect multiple inner bladders, made of a material that holds in the module's air. The shell also provides insulation from temperatures in space that can range from +121°C (+250°F) in sunlight to -128°C (-200°F) in the shade.
The key to the debris protection is successive layers of Nextel, a material commonly used as insulation under the hoods of many cars, spaced between several-inches-thick layers of open cell foam, similar to foam used for chair cushions on Earth. The Nextel and foam layers cause a particle to shatter as it hits, losing more and more of its energy as it penetrates deeper.Many layers into the shell is a layer of super-strong woven Kevlar that holds the module's shape. The air is held inside by three bladders of Combitherm, material commonly used in the food-packing industry. The innermost layer, forming the inside wall of the module, is Nomex cloth, a fireproof material that also protects the bladder from scuffs and scratches.
Bigelow has described their technology to news media and have indicated that their proprietary technology inflatable shell, now in validation test in low-earth orbit in two subscale spacecraft, incorporates a layer of Vectran, along with the Kevlar etc. of the NASA technology.
Bigelow Aerospace is developing the BA 330 module to mate with other spacecraft. In early illustrations, this was shown as being with the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but it could theoretically be with any number of other vehicles.
Once assembled, the combined vehicle would offer the benefits of enhanced operating space for the crew, along with the traditional necessities of the 'hard' spacecraft docked to it, such as atmospheric re-entry.
The BA 330 has dual-redundant control thruster systems, one using monopropellant hydrazine and the other using gaseous hydrogen and gaseous oxygen. The latter system is refillable from the onboard environmental control system.
The habitat has two solar arrays and two thermal radiator arrays for heat dissipation, as well as life support systems to sustain a crew of up to six astronauts. It will also have "a zero-g toilet with solid and liquid waste collection, semi-private berths for each crew member, exercise equipment, a food storage and preparation station, ... lighting, and a personal hygiene station."
The BA 330 is the brainchild of Robert Bigelow of Budget Suites of America. Its design is based on the cancelled NASA TransHab program. Bigelow gained access to Transhab engineers and workers,[when?] some of whom later went on to advise Bigelow's project.[dated info]
As of 2005[update], Bigelow Aerospace had plans to develop the CSS Skywalker, a space station based upon using BA 330 modules to act as an orbital hotel. Plans in 2010 continued to call for construction of a space station, but without the CSS Skywalker moniker, with "more usable volume than the existing International Space Station". Those plans included a complex of two smaller Sundancer modules, a combined node and propulsion module and one full-size BA-330 in order to provide a total volume that was only somewhat less than that of the International Space Station, though built from fewer and larger individual modules.
As of February 2010[update], an initial launch of the BA 330 was slated to be no earlier than 2015, following a notional launch of the smaller Sundancer habitat in 2014. In July 2010, Bigelow announced that a BA-330 would be the sixth spacecraft component making up the notional Bigelow Commercial Space Station. The Sundancer development was later halted, with a decision to move directly from the Genesis-series prototype expandable habitats to the BA 330.
As of November 2013[update], Bigelow Aerospace indicated that the company has the financial capacity to produce at least two BA 330 habitats, and those habitats could be built by late 2016, along with a couple of transit tugs and a docking node if Bigelow is able to secure commercial customers to pay for approximately half of the launch costs for these systems.
In February 2014, some pricing and other lease details were made public. The BA 330 lease rate will be US$25 million for one-third of the station—110 cubic metres (3,900 cu ft)—for a 60-day lease and a round-trip taxi-seat to the BA 330 in low-Earth orbit (LEO) on a SpaceX DragonRider will cost US$26.5 million per seat.
Also in 2014, Bigelow announced notional designs for two enhanced BA 330s, but has explicitly stated that it would need to secure an anchor customer to go forward with bulding and launching any systems beyond low-Earth orbit (BLEO).
- BA 330-DS for deep space missions to Earth/Moon Lagrange points or for Lunar orbital destinations.
- BA 330-MDS for use on the surface of the Moon or other inner solar system bodies.
- Bigelow Aerospace
- TransHab (concept, never built)
- Genesis I
- Genesis II
- Bigelow Expandable Activity Module
- Sundancer (cancelled)
- BA 2100 (concept)
- "International Space Development Conference - Bigelow Slideshow". Bigelow Aerospace. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
- "Moonandback Interview With Robert Bigelow, part 3 – Pluses And Minuses". moonandback.com. 30 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
- Grondin, Yves (2014-02-14). "Bigelow: Moon Property rights would help create a lunar industry". NASAspaceflight.com. Retrieved 2014-02-16. "[Bigelow Aerospace] has the financial capacity to pay for at least two BA 330s habitats which should be ready by the end of 2016."
- David, Leonard (8 March 2005). "Progress Made on Inflatable Private Space Module". Space.com. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
- "Moonandback Interview With Robert Bigelow, part 3 – Pluses And Minuse". Moonandback Media. 30 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- "TransHab Concept". National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA.gov). 27 June 2003. Archived from the original on 1 June 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
- Bigelow Aerospace — Next-Generation Commercial Space Stations: BA 330, Bigelow Aerospace, 2010, accessed 29 December 2010.
- "Robert Bigelow Explains His Inflatable Space Module". Bloomberg Businessweek. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
- Private Spaceflight Goes Public, Alan Boyle, MSNBC Cosmic Log, 1 February 2010.
- Rogers, Keith (23 July 2006). "Week in Review: Reporters Notebook". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
- "DuPont, Surlyn-resin, Combitherm-film case study".
- Putting Up the Ritz: Can pneumatic buildings breathe life into space tourism?, James Oberg, IEEE Spectrum, Feb 2007.
- Inflatable space module puffs up, Jonathan Fildes, BBC News, 14 July 2006
- Grondin, Yves (2014-02-07). "Affordable habitats means more Buck Rogers for less money says Bigelow". NASAspaceflight.com. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
- Schrimpsher, Dan (21 August 2006). "Interview: TransHab developer William Schneider". TheSpaceReview.com. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
- An Interview with Constance Adams: Architect for the TransHab Inflatable Space Station Module, 30 May 2003
- "The Five-Billion-Star Hotel, 1 Mar 2005".
- Moon dreams - The Americans may still go to the moon before the Chinese, The Economist, 2010-02-18, accessed 22 February 2010. "The current plan is to launch the first full-scale habitat (called Sundancer) in 2014. Further modules will be added to this over the course of a year, and the result will be a space station with more usable volume than the existing international one."
- Bigelow Aerospace — Next-Generation Commercial Space Stations: Orbital Complex Construction, Bigelow Aerospace, accessed 15 July 2010.
- Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) Trusted by Bigelow Aerospace to provide Environmental Control and Life Support (ECLSS) for Sundancer Feb 2010.
- Diagram of BA-330 with Orbitec life support systems Feb 2010.