Bigelow Aerospace – Overview
Bigelow Aerospace Corporation is an American aerospace company venture that develops and manufactures expandable modular space station modules. Robert Bigelow was born in 1952, in El Cajon, California. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at San Francisco. Later, he served as an aerospace engineer with Honeywell Corporation.
In the mid-1990s, Bigelow Aerospace was established by Robert Bigelow and is located in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Today, it is one of the largest aerospace companies in the world, working with NASA and private industry clients to produce commercial and military aircraft and capsules.
Most of its current designs are used in NASA’s Constellation program, but the corporation also produces capsules and reusable launch vehicle programs. Some of its most popular products include the Titan IV and V capsules, which are manufactured by subcontracting Boeing and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The Bigelow concept is similar to the idea behind the later modules designed for the International Space Station (ISS). Bigelow Aerospace relies on its modularity approach to building a modular space system. This technique allows it to build capsules and other systems that are easily reconfigured if needed or when a module becomes damaged. Because Bigelow relies on standardized specifications, the finished product can be made in a factory setting and delivered to orbit with minimal delays.
The Bigelow concept starts with the selection of a suitable modular design. A 3D computer model is created using CAD/CAM software, and the physical specs of the proposed module are converted into a digital format. The digital design is then sent to a Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility, which will then manufacture the module. Once the module has been built, it is tested in a heat chamber and subsequently sent to orbit for use by astronauts.
Bigelow has also designed and built modular habitats that are meant for use by military personnel. These designs are made in a similar fashion to those used by NASA, but they are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and resist various attacks. In addition, these designs can also be reconfigured within the original design should additional changes be needed. Military modules are also constructed by Bigelow Aerospace using standard fabrication methods and techniques.
Bigelow Aerospace specializes in constructing both vertical and horizontal modular spaceships. Their vertical design is based on their Experience Lab modular design. Their horizontal modular space system consists of modular sections that can be connected together via tethers and used as docking stations. Connecting sections within a modular space system are typically manufactured using high-density polyethene (HDPE) tape.
Additionally, Bigelow has designed and built modular habitats that feature various different levels of module accessibility. These different access levels can be used for different purposes. For example, some modules may feature “interior” walls so that the interior of the module does not have to physically separate from the exterior environment. This feature is particularly useful for long-term in-orbit flight. Moreover, some modular spaceships feature escape systems that allow crew members to escape from the spacecraft during emergency situations.
Bigelow’s primary focus is on constructing modular spaceships that will be able to support human life in extreme conditions. Many of their designs are specifically designed to incorporate specific systems that are essential for supporting astronaut comfort and functionality.
This includes but is not limited to the use of airbags and seat belts within the modular space system. The use of these systems is especially important for long-term space missions that would subject the astronauts to great G-powers. Additionally, Bigelow has worked with NASA to incorporate various safety features within their modular space system.