An agreement was reached and announced that will enable these two companies to launch the only commercial launch vehicle in development today with sufficient performance and a large enough payload fairing to carry the habitat that will serve as a lunar depot.
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot.
Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace said they are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project, and that their lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term. This lunar depot could be deployed easily by 2022 to support the nation’s re-energized plans for returning to the Moon.
He continued that this commercial lunar depot would provide anchorage for significant lunar business development in addition to offering NASA and other governments the Moon as a new exciting location to conduct long-term exploration and astronaut training.
The B330 would launch to Low Earth Orbit on a Vulcan 562 configuration rocket, the only commercial launch vehicle in development today with sufficient performance and a large enough payload fairing to carry the habitat. Once the B330 is in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace will outfit the habitat and demonstrate it is working properly. Once the B330 is fully operational, ULA’s industry-unique distributed lift capability would be used to send the B330 to lunar orbit. Distributed lift would also utilize two more Vulcan ACES launches, each carrying 35 tons of cryogenic propellant to low Earth orbit. In LEO, all of the cryogenic propellant would be transferred to one of the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES). The now full ACES would then rendezvous with the B330 and perform multiple maneuvers to deliver the B330 to its final position in Low Lunar Orbit.
Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO added that they are so pleased to be able to continue their relationship with Bigelow Aerospace, and that the company is doing such tremendous work in the area of habitats for visiting, living and working off the planet and they are thrilled to be the ride that enables that reality.
Bigelow Aerospace is a destination-oriented company with a focus on expandable systems for use in a variety of space applications. These NASA heritage systems provide for greater volume, safety, opportunity and economy than the aluminum alternatives.
The B330 is a standalone commercial space station that can operate in low Earth orbit, cislunar space and beyond. A single B330 is comparable to one third of the current pressurized volume of the entire International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace is developing two B330 commercial space station habitats that will be ready for launch any time after 2020.