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Space Science

Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft 122

Raver32 writes "Following the successful launch and deployment of two inflatable space modules, on Monday the owner and founder of Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to move ahead with the launch of its first human habitable spacecraft, the Sundancer. The decision to fast-track Sundancer was made in part due to rising launch costs as well as the ability to test some systems on the ground, company CEO Robert Bigelow said in a press statement. 'As anyone associated with the aerospace industry is aware, global launch costs have been rising rapidly over the course of the past few years,' Bigelow is quoted as saying. 'These price hikes have been most acute in Russia due to a number of factors including inflation, previous artificially low launch costs and the falling value of the US dollar.'"
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Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft

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  • by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:13PM (#20232419) Journal
    remember, on earth we look at homes by floorplans. In space, things can be utilized more efficiently because your ceiling is your floor is your wall. You can have a bed on the ceiling and free up 'floor' space. It's all relative. There need not be blank walls, unless there is a window with a view.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:32PM (#20232519) Journal

    TFA said 180 meters**2 of livable space. I have no intuitive feel for that, so I did some quick conversion: that's about three 18-wheeler trailers.
    Another way to think about it is that the 180 m^3 in their initial "small-size" Sundancer [] prototype module is 42.3% of the total current internal volume of all the modules in the International Space Station (425 m^3). Bigelow's next planning on producing BA 330 [] modules, each of which will have 330 m^3 and can be linked up with each other and the Sundancer.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:38PM (#20232571) Journal
    I'm pretty excited about this news, as it seems like Bigelow might have his human-rated space station up and running as early as 2009. Here's the text of the official announcement: p#update []

    Also, here's a pretty good article from Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log [].

    Hopefully SpaceX will have some successful launches soon, in order to provide Bigelow with a drastically more cost-effective way to launch modules and people. It'd be beautiful to see a SpaceX Dragon [] crew capsule taking people up to Bigelow's Sundancer habitat.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:51PM (#20232649) Journal
    Parent comment: Inflatable, eh? Sounds, er, dangerous. No sharp objects, I hope...

    Ugh, this ends up coming up every time there's a story on Bigelow Aerospace's habitat modules. From the wikipedia article on Bigelow Aerospace []:

    Contrary to many expectations, Bigelow Aerospace anticipates that its inflatable modules will be more durable than rigid modules.[3] This is partially due to the company's use of several layers of vectran, a material twice as strong as kevlar, and also because, in theory, flexible walls should be able to sustain micrometeorite impacts better than rigid walls.
    Also, from the BA 330 article []:

    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 micrometeorites and debris. ... It is incorrect to equate it with an air-filled balloon floating in space. Rather, when expanded the outer shell is as hard to the touch as concrete,[1] the redundancy of the multiple (10+) layers of the bladder tends to rapidly distribute the impact energy of very low-mass high-speed impactors through the layers. A regular aluminium space station module negates an impact with Kevlar armor or other absorptive material, which is marginally more likely to suffer a catastrophic puncture in the event of an impact.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:54PM (#20232675) Homepage Journal
    It's been little reported, and they are yet to update their schedule on the web site, but Elon Musk has said SpaceX won't be launching another Falcon I until next year []. The two launches planned for the second half of this year have been scrubbed so they can make performance improvements to the vehicle. Most notably, changing the engine from Merlin 1a to Merlin 1c, and upgrading the material on the second stage tank to a higher strength aluminum, along with some improvements to the second stage engine. Robustness issues will also be addressed.

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