<< Back to Articles' Directory
Everyone interested in spacecrafts and spaceflights knows Robert Bigelow, his company Bigelow Aerospace and his "inflatable modules" developed to build giant, cheap and easy to deploy habitable space stations.
The first (unmanned) experimental, 33% scale, 4.4 x 2.54 meters, 11.5 Cubic Meters, prototype of inflatable module (called Genesis-I) was successfully launched on July 12, 2006 from the ISC Kosmotras Space and Missile Complex in the Orenburg region of Russia with a Russian Dnepr rocket.
The second module launch (Genesis II) is scheduled for this year, while, full-scale habitable space station modules, are planned for launch in 2011-2012.
Well... I've had a simple (but very useful) idea about Bigelow's inflatable modules: JOIN one of them with the new Lockheed-Martin's Orion to have MORE HABITABLE SPACE and LESS TOTAL WEIGHT.
Infact, despite the (last year) resizing from the (original) ESAS 5.5 meters diameter to its (current) 5 meters, latest news/rumors say it's (still) too heavy.
My idea is to put a small inflatable module on the top of a (further resized) Orion, stored (deflated) between the main capsule and its hatch (to be deployed in space) that can (also) works as AIRLOCK.
Once inflated, the BigelowOrion looks like a Soyuz, with its "Reentry Module" (a smaller Orion) and its "Orbital Module" (the small Bigelow module) and both modules may have their own life supports and navigation systems for redundancy and for an "ApolloXIII-like" contingency on, both, earth-moon and moon-earth travels.
Of course, to save weight, the Orion's main capsule must be resìzed to 4.5 meters or less, but that doesn't matter, since the Orion's inflatable module may assure a large and comfortable habitat for the entire travel, while, the main capsule, will be used ONLY a few hours, on launch and reentry (when the inflatable module and the Orion's Service Module will be jettisoned).
But... "can the BigelowOrion even born someday"?
My answer is yes since Bigelow Aerospace and the Orion's manufacturer Lockheed-Martin have signed an agreement to man-rate the AtlasV to launch manned private's capsules for space tourism.
Then, it may born as Bigelow-NASA-LM-Orion project or simply as Bigelow-LockMart tourist capsule/habitat!
January 14 - 2007
Since the BigelowOrion may appears "too complex" to build and operate, I've added this animation that clearly shows how simple it may be and work!
Also, if the inflatable module will be build as simple and light as possible, it doesn't need to be jettisoned (that may be a complex and risky operation) but simply closed (before start the capsule's Earth-reentry operation) or (if safe) used open (as an "aerobrake") to have less "G"!
Just look that the open BO has about THREE TIMES the habitable volume of the standard capsule without increase so much the total capsule+module weight!
Also, the inflatable module's habitat will be much more comfortable for the astronauts than a capsule, since it is a (larger and longer) cylinder instead of a (smaller) cone!
BigelowOrion animation added in January 25 - 2007
>>>>>> If you talk/discuss about this argument on space forums/blogs/websites/magazines/articles please refer to the source of the idea and/or put a link to this article. Thank You. <<<<<<<<<<
Copyright © 2007 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - Base images and logo used for the drawings are © NASA