back to article SpaceX and Bigelow sign deal for inflatable space stations in orbit

SpaceX has signed a partnership deal with Bigelow Aerospace (BA) to offer a taxi service to and from the inflatable habitats BA intends to put into orbit. A SpaceX representative told El Reg that it expect to be ready for manned flight by 2015, and commercial services would start shortly afterwards. Bigelow is partnering with …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. MajorTom

    Space Hotel

    Best idea I've heard in years: matching the first major commercial launcher+spacecraft company up with the first commercial space station company.

    Skip the suborbital flights, let's visit the Orbital Hilton!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Space Hotel

      Blown up out of all proportion.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inflatable Tech

    Dr. Schlock would be so proud. I only hope there's no Dimensional Flux Agitator on that thing.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Crazy Operations Guy

    Every time I read or someone says SpaceX, I end up hearing Space-Sex...

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Well, I for one...

    ...welcome our new high flying Nevadian space airbag overlords.

    Paris. Because.

  6. Ageing Hippie

    5 star

    Will they want a doorman.

    "Have spacesuit will travel"

    Beer, straight from the squeeze bottle :)

    1. Richard Ball

      Re: 5 star

      A space-suit made from a duvet by your mum does not count.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 5 star

        If all it took was a working spacesuit to get a ticket, i'd be building one....

        Its just a pressure suit with life support system... how hard can that be for a reg reader?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          "a pressure suit with life support system"

          So, those that have no life can just dig up that old suit your mom made out of a duvet.

          (mine's the radiation-hardened micrometeorite-resistant blanket)

        2. Mike Flugennock

          Re: 5 star

          "If all it took was a working spacesuit to get a ticket, i'd be building one....

          Its just a pressure suit with life support system... how hard can that be for a reg reader?"

          Welll-llll... not so fast, there, Sparky. You've got to consider thermal and micrometeoroid protection, a comms system, internal heating/cooling, power for your life-support pack and your internal heating/cooling pumps -- not to mention serious mobility issues, and... well, just have a look at this...

          Have a good time. Don't forget to pre-breathe.

  7. Chemist


    and I thought my Avon inflatable sportsboat was tough.

  8. 4ecks

    Great idea.

    A rent-a-tent in orbit, but I don't fancy the walk to the shower block.

  9. Stuart Halliday


    Just wait untill someone tries to hang a picture up - BANG!

    1. Tom 13

      Re: oops

      Nah, they solved that for the Gemini flights. Most places sell it today under the name Velcro.

  10. Fibbles

    Does anyone know how these inflatable capsules offer better micro-meteorite protection than the ISS? As far as I can figure out they'll both lose pressure if struck but the inflatable will also lose rigidity (although nowhere near as dramatically as it would in an atmosphere).

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "Inflatable Structures Technology Handbook - Chapter 21; Inflatable Habitats"


      "The technologies required to design, fabricate, and utilize an inflatable module for space applications has been demonstrated and proven by the TransHab team during the development phase of the program. Through testing and hands-on development several issues about inflatable space structures have been addressed , such as: ease of manufacturing, structural integrity, micrometeorite protection, folding , and vacuum deployment. The TransHab inflatable technology development program has proven that not only are inflatable structures a viable option, but they also offer significant advantages over conventional metallic structures."


      "The TransHab shield consists of several layers of NextelTM ceramic fabric layers that are separated by open cell polyurethane foam . The purpose of the foam is to provide a standoff distance between the Nextel layers. The foam is vacuum compressed prior to launch , to minimize volume and allow the shell to be easily folded. On orbit, in the vacuum of space , the foam regains its original standoff thickness due to the resilience of the foam and lack of differential pressure. Behind the alternating layers of Nextel and foam is a high strength KevlarTM fabric rear wall. As the hypervelocity particle impacts each of the multiple Nextel layers , it is continually shattered into smaller, slower particles over a larger area. With a properly sized shield , by the time the particles reach the Kevlar rear wall, they are small and slow enough to be stopped."

      1. Fibbles

        Cheers for that, finding this stuff isn't always easy on a phone's screen. I'm guessing Nextel is lighter but not as strong as Kevlar? I'll have a route around in the doc you linked later, I'll be interested to see how they do radiation shielding on these things (or if Bigelow really bothered with it at all since the pods are only ever likely to ever be deployed in LEO).

  11. Dani Eder

    Patch Kit

    Something to keep handy in an inflatable module is a sticky patch kit. In case of puncture, Hold the patch near the hole, and suction will slap it into place. Then smooth out the edges and probably add a few more layers of patch.

    Nextel (TM) is a 3M company ceramic fiber. ( ). For meteor/debris shields the advantage over Kevlar is the high temperature properties. At orbital speeds, *everything* is moving fast enough to melt or vaporize on impact. So your first layer of Nextel produces a splatter of hot droplets and vapor, including some of the Nextel. Further layers are there to contain the hot splatter.

    Another reason to use Nextel over Kevlar, is Kevlar is an organic compound, and low Earth orbits have a significant amount of atomic oxygen ions around, which will eat organics. That's why most everything in orbit is covered with fiberglass or other materials not subject to oxidation.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is zero-G industry really a cash cow?

    Genuinely curious, as it also often gets cited as a key justification for the expense of ISS, but is there really a queue of companies performing zero-G research, and of a sufficiently compelling nature that they will pay market rates for it (ie that the Bigelow habitat will be self-funding through this)? I quite understand that there are processes that can't be performed under normal gravitational conditions and that these are interesting to study but are many real companies digging into their own pockets for this?

    1. Peter Clarke 1

      Re: Is zero-G industry really a cash cow?

      Probably has more serious interest than asteroid mining and look how much has been speculated on that

    2. Vulch

      Re: Is zero-G industry really a cash cow?

      Of the 6 crew on the ISS it usually works out that 2.5 of them are looking after the station and the other 3.5 are running experiments so there's a fair bit being done. It's a very bureaucratic and time consuming process getting an experiment flown though, and being willing to pay market rate doesn't help. You've also got J. Random Astronaut or Josef Cosmonaut running your experiment if it does get there, one major advantage with a Space-X/Bigelow lab is likely to be being able to fly your own researcher. NASA used to fly researchers (one of the most flown astronauts pre-Challenger was the employee of a company repeatedly flying an experiment) but stopped.

  13. amanfromearth


    330 square meters of space

    Presumably thats the surface area of the inside of the cylinder.

    If we guess that the diameter is 6 metres, the ends will be 2 x 9 x pi ~= 56m^2

    and the length of the cylinder will be (330 -56) / 6pi ~= 14m

    That's not a lot of room for growing space potatoes.

    1. Hopalong
      Thumb Up

      Re: Flatland?

      The 330 is the pressured volume in cubic metres. The internal dimensions are about 6m x 9m, so you where not that far out (the external length including the docking module is 14M)

    2. Crisp

      Re: Flatland?

      That's a bloody good point. Why aren't they growing space potatoes?

      I would have thought that having something living in their prototypes would have been a better integrity test.

  14. Peddler

    As with any tent...

    ...the tricky part will be folding it up and getting it back in the bag when it is time to go home.

    1. stucs201

      Re: As with any tent...

      Ah, but at least you're not going to have to pack it away in the rain then have to wait for a sunny day to dry it out and then repack it yet again.

  15. Mike Flugennock

    Just found a problem with that subhead...

    Shouldn't that read:


    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Just found a problem with that subhead...

      Or "Budget Suites in SPAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!"

  16. TeeCee Gold badge

    Famous last words:

    "Game of darts anyone?"

  17. Crisp

    Frobozz Magic Space Station


    This space station is guaranteed against all defects in parts and workmanship for a period of 76 milliseconds from date of purchase or until first used, whichever comes first.


    This space station is made of thin plastic.

    Good Luck!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Frobozz Magic Space Station

      Unless you purchase the extra extended warranty, which extends for a further 74 milliseconds for a mere 25% surcharge!!

      Only while stocks last!

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020