Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bigelow Aerospace gearing-up for private space station on-orbit and bases on the Moon

By JackKennedy
Robert Bigelow
Bigelow Aerospace LLC, a maker of inflatable space habitats, will study the possible return of huamns to the surface of the Moon as part of an agreement with NASA that may lead to more public-private partnerships for exploration.

Aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow unveiled plans Thursday for a craft known as The Guide. He gave few details but described it as a “flight-like testing unit” that is smaller than a car. He plans to have test flights in early 2014 at a dry lake near Alamo, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

Bigelow, founder and president of North Las Vegas’ Bigelow Aerospace, said The Guide would be able to land as an operational base on the moon. He did not disclose its development costs but said he is “trying to get (it) in contract.” It’s the “simplest, least expensive base” he could build, as NASA looks more and more to the private sector for help with human space missions, Bigelow said.

Proposed Bigelow Moon Base
"The brass ring for us is having a lunar base — as a company and in conjunction with other companies, and even other, possibly, foreign entities as well," Bigelow said during a teleconference with reporters May 23, 2013 in Washington. "That is an appetite and a desire that we've had for a long, long time."

The deal “signals that NASA is open to working with the private sector on lunar activities even if the agency itself does not want to lead such an effort,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said in a phone interview with BloombergBusiness.

NASA typically develops plans for various projects and then asks the private sector to contribute. With the study, agency officials decided to flip that process and ask companies from the get-go where they see business opportunities, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of human exploration and operations at NASA