February 1st, 2011

New inflatable module will attach to ISS, blow itself up DVICE

NASA is in talks with Bigelow Aerospace to potentially acquire a new inflatable module for the International Space Station. Yes, that’s right: they’re going to blow up the ISS.
Bigelow Aerospace has been at this inflatable space station thing for quite a while, and it’s actually got two prototypes in orbit already, demonstrating that making a space station out of glorified party balloons is provably not completely nutso. Of course, Bigelow’s modules, while they do inflate, are far more complex than a simple balloon. They contain radiation shielding that’s as good as or better than the current shielding on the ISS, and their ballistic shielding (which provides protection against micrometeorites and orbital debris) is also more effective than traditional designs.
NASA is interested in getting in on a piece of the inflatable action for several reasons. The first one is cost: using Bigelow modules, NASA could substantially increase the size of the ISS at a fraction of the cost of more traditional station modules. The other reason is that NASA wants to encourage the commercial aerospace market, and there’s no better way to do that than to offer a private company some funding to prove the commercial viability of their product while adding a bunch of space to the ISS on the cheap at the same time.

July 15th, 2010

NASA Launches Contest for Inflatable Space Houses

NASA has launched a summer contest for students to design the best inflatable loft for life in space or on another world. A cash reward and a field test of the winning design are up for grabs.
Three awards of up to $48,000 each will be granted to the university student teams that produce the best loft-like inflatable space habitats that can be attached to a hard-shell NASA structure. The winner of a head-to-head competition of the modules’ performance in the Arizona desert will earn another $10,000, NASA officials said in an announcement. The X-Hab contest, short for “eXploration Habitat,” follows in the tradition of NASA’s Lunabotics program and the space-related X Prize awards offered by the non-profit X Prize Foundation to spur interest in aerospace fields.

March 3rd, 2010

NASA turned on by blow-up space stations NewScientist

NASA is planning to investigate making inflatable space-station modules to make roomier, lighter, cheaper-to-launch spacecraft, it reveals in its budget proposal released on 22 February. The agency is considering connecting a Bigelow expandable craft to the ISS to verify their safety by testing life support, radiation shielding, thermal control and communications capabilities.

October 14th, 2008

Inflatable Surveillance Balls for Mars Popular Science

By next fall, NASA plans to launch its biggest Red Planet rover yet, the $1.8-billion, SUV-size Mars Research Laboratory. Even though the MRL will be able to haul five times as much equipment as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are already on Mars, a group of Swedish researchers say that they could accomplish far more if accompanied by a squad of helper ’bots. Fredrik Bruhn, the CEO of Ångström Aerospace Corporation, and his colleagues have designed the small inflatable scouts to assist bigger, less mobile rovers in their hunt for signs of microbial life on Mars.
Each foot-wide, 11-pound ball can roll up to 62 miles, snap photos at any angle, and take soil samples, drawing its power from the solar panels on its shell. Unlike wheeled rovers, the rounded scouts have fewer motors to repair, never flip over, and are easier to seal from dust. Plus, they rarely get stuck. “The beauty of the system is it needs very little energy to go around rocks, so unless you’re landing on a surface that looks like a bed of nails, it should be fine,” Bruhn says.

May 9th, 2008

Private Space Station Prototype Hits Orbital Milestone

A prototype module for a private space station has passed an orbital milestone after completing its 10,000th trip around the Earth.
Genesis 1, an inflatable module built by the Las Vegas, Nev.-based firm Bigelow Aerospace, passed the 10,000-orbit mark as it nears the beginning of its third year of unmanned operations, its builders announced late Thursday.
Bigelow Aerospace launched Genesis 1 atop a converted intercontinental ballistic missile on July 12, 2006 to test its ability to self-inflate and operate in Earth orbit. Led by businessman Robert Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain and other enterprises, Bigelow Aerospace followed Genesis 1 with a successor, Genesis 2, in June 2007. That module also continues to function as designed.

November 19th, 2007

Inflatable Moon Base Prototype Heads to South Pole

An inflatable habitat designed for explorers on the moon or Mars is headed for an Antarctic test run, NASA said Wednesday.
The habitat – built by ILC Dover and resembling an inflatable backyard bounce for children – will make its South Pole debut early next year. NASA demonstrated the inflatable prototype on Wednesday at ILC Dover’s Frederica, Del., facility.
“We deflated [and inflated] it in about ten minutes,” said Larry Toups, habitat lead for NASA’s Constellation Program Lunar Surface Systems Office, in an interview.

September 17th, 2007

Inflatable, Affordable Electric Car Announced PES Network

XP Vehicles™ announced on Thursday that it’s Whisper™ electric car is being developed for online direct ship distribution at sub $5000.00 price-points.
A baffled pressure tube system (think Zodiac™ rubber boat) provides the actual supporting and protective structure of the vehicle.
How safe is it? Recall that NASA recently threw tens of millions of dollars of ultra-sensitive electronics onto the surface of Mars from nearly a mile up and then bounced that same delicate gear for over a mile over boulders and everything worked flawlessly. This was due to the instruments being shrouded in an already expanded inflatable housing that has served as the model for the Whisper™ body structure.

March 26th, 2007

Bigelow Shoots For The Moon MSNBC

Even as Bigelow Aerospace gears up for launching its second prototype space station into orbit, the company has set its sights on something much, much bigger: a project to assemble full-blown space villages at a work site between Earth and the moon, then drop them to the lunar surface, ready for immediate move-in.
In an exclusive interview, Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow confirmed that his company has been talking about the concept with NASA – and that the first earthly tests of the techniques involved would take place later this year. The scenario he sketched out would essentially make Bigelow a general contractor for the final frontier.

July 26th, 2006

Genesis-1: Reaching Escape Velocity From Red Tape

The orbiting of the privately-bankrolled Genesis-1 expandable spacecraft by Bigelow Aerospace is a step forward in the company’s vision to provide a low-cost, low Earth orbit human-rated space complex that is accessible to the commercial sector. The general concept for “inflatable” space habitats was initially developed by NASA for use in a proposed mission to Mars, hence the name, “Transit Habitat” or “TransHab” as it was commonly referred to. That work was curtailed in 2000, falling victim to NASA budget cuts. Since that time, Bigelow Aerospace took the basic concept, redefined it, moved the technology generations ahead and in many different directions, and ultimately brought the idea to fruition in the form of the Genesis-1 Pathfinder vessel.

September 7th, 2005

Inflation Factor: Bigelow Readies Test Module

A test of an inflatable Earth orbiting module is slated for liftoff early next year, bankrolled by a go-it-alone, do-it-yourself entrepreneur keen on providing commercial space habitats for research and manufacturing, among other duties. Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada is readying a test prototype of the firm