BEAM Me Up, Elon: Inflatable Module Sets Off to ISS

By Alyssa Samson

Like a page out of a sci-fi novel, balloon-like rooms might be the future of space habitation. On Friday, April 8th, SpaceX is scheduled to launch the latest technology for space habitats, an inflatable module called Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), created by Bigelow Aerospace. Weighing about 14,000 kilograms, this new space module might hold the key to sustainable, livable space conditions – providing working and residency areas for astronauts with reduced costs.

The 8-foot bundle will travel aboard the Dragon spacecraft for two days, where it will be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) and deployed. The module will be roughly the size of a car or small bedroom. Here is a 2-minute BEAM installation animation:

BEAM will be tested by the ISS for roughly two years. While no astronauts will live in the module while it’s in space, they will periodically inspect it and record data. Scientists will use the designated time to determine its radiation protection capability, transportation effectiveness, as well as the product’s design performance – such as thermal and structural durability. BEAM has been designed with multiple thick layers of fabric to help prevent damage against space debris.

Findings from this two year mission will allow Bigelow engineers to modify the company’s larger model, the B330, which is designed to hold six astronauts and have a lifespan of roughly 20 years.

“The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters. “Using the station’s resources, we’ll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory.”

When the ISS has gathered data from BEAM for two years, the station will then release the module and it will burn up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Bigelow Aerospace has two inflatable prototypes already launched into space – the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Inflatable modules are an attractive option for space habitats because of their cargo efficiency; they are lightweight and conserve fuel. If this mission proves to be successful, inflatable modules might be part of a deep space mission or more.

Have a safe flight, BEAM!

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National Space Society Political Action Alert

1. Contact your congressperson to co-sponsor H.R.4752 (SEDS Act)

2. March Storm Home District Blitz extended to support H.R. 4752 (SEDS Act)

By Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee

On Wednesday March 16, 2016, Representative Dana Rohrabacher introduced the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4752). This date is the 90th anniversary of the launch of the first liquid fueled rocket in 1926 by Robert Goddard.  NSS, working with our partners in the Alliance for Space Development, has been pushing for the SEDS Act starting in January 2015. The introduction of the Bill is an important milestone for NSS and for our future in space.

Now is the time to move things to the next level. Call, write, or email your Representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 4752. The message is simple – this is a great Bill, it adds nothing to the budget, and it will give NASA an inspiring and important long term goal. Urge your Representative to contact Tony DeTora, Representative Rohrabacher’s space staffer, to sign on.

With this auspicious event, we have decided to extend the March Storm Home District Blitz in support of H.R. 4752. We have just completed a very successful Washington DC based March Storm event held March 13- 17. This year’s topics are:

  1. Support full-funding for Commercial Crew program
  2. Establish an Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space Prize (see DRAFT BILL).
  3. Pass the Commercial Space Industrialization Act
    • Ensure a low-risk gapless transition from ISS to private space stations in LEO, with NASA serving as an early customer (see DRAFT BILL).
    • Require commercial-style acquisition and development of lunar and asteroid resources to be used in support of future lunar bases and voyages to Mars.
  4. Make space development and settlement part of NASA’s official mission (SEDS Act)

Using the same materials as the DC March Storm, local groups arranged to visit their Congressperson’s home district offices during the March 21-25 recess (or soon thereafter), just like the NSS/SFF 2015 August Home District Blitz. This activity is being extended to support H.R. 4752.

Resources:

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Alabama [and America] should lead in space solar power

NSS Board of Directors member Peter Garretson is co-author of an article on space solar power in the Montgomery Advertiser, stating:

Being the first to establish Space Solar Power systems will establish who is the “Saudi Arabia of Green Energy.” Space Solar Power is as significant an industrial development as the airplane, the automobile, the locomotive, or the steam ship. It will determine which is the richest and most powerful nation on Earth and beyond.

…Already China is ahead in the only space race that matters—a competition that will decide who writes the rules in the multi-hundred-of-trillions-of-dollars economy that will emerge (yes, you read that right). They have a national program in Space Solar Power. America does not.

…China—the country that built the massive three gorges dam, completed its Shanghai maglev high speed rail in just three years—is planning a hundred kilowatt on-orbit demo just nine years from now, and a hundred megawatt demo five years later.

Read the full article.

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The Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016

The Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4752) has been introduced by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher “to require the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to investigate and promote the exploration and development of space leading to human settlements beyond Earth, and for other purposes.”

The National Space Society urges you to call or write your Congressional Representative today and request that he or she co-sponsor H.R. 4752 (the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016). You should specifically ask that the space staffer for your Representative should contact Tony DeTora in Congressman Rohrabacher’s office to become a co-sponsor.

This bill states: “The Congress declares that expanding permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit in a way that enables human settlement and a thriving space economy will enhance the general welfare of the United States and requires the Administration to encourage and support the development of permanent space settlements.”

It also provides a definition: “The term ‘space settlement’ means any community of humans living beyond Earth’s atmosphere that is able to economically sustain its population through a neutral or positive balance of trade of goods and services, and is able to expand its habitable real estate as need and desire of the community may warrant and international law permits.”

The full text of the bill can be found here: nss.org/sedsact

Posted in Space Colonization, Space Policy, Space Settlement | 2 Comments

Dr. Ellen Ochoa to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service

Ellen OchoaDr. Ellen Ochoa is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Non-Legislative Government Service. This award recognizes Ochoa’s career serving as a professional engineer, a shuttle astronaut, the first hispanic woman in space, and subsequently in very important management positions in NASA, including her current position as the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Ellen will accept the award on May 19 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016. The public is invited to attend ISDC in order to view the award presentation.

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Dr. Ellen Ochoa 

After receiving a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1985, Dr. Ochoa did research at both Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center. Her achievements include significant engineering work in optics, in information (signal-to-noise) in images, and as Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA Ames. She also served as a shuttle astronaut for over a decade, making four flights, from 1993 to 2002. Ochoa then served as Deputy Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson Space Center, focusing on the Astronaut Office and Aircraft Operations, and later as Deputy Center Director. Then, on the first day of 2013, Dr. Ochoa became the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a position she currently holds. Johnson has been the focus for human spacecraft operations for most of NASA’s history. Dr. Ochoa’s directorship of JSC will have a significant impact on the future of human spaceflight.

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China and Space Solar Power

From article China Plans to Build Space Solar Power Stations:

“Lt Gen. Zhang Yulin, deputy chief of the armament development department of the Central Military Commission, suggested that China would next begin to exploit Earth-Moon space for industrial development. The goal would be the construction of space-based solar power satellites that would beam energy back to Earth.”

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NSS and Space Solar Power

NSS Chair of the Executive Committee Mark Hopkins is mentioned in this interesting article on space solar power.

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Blue Origin to Receive the National Space Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard's West Texas launch facility before the rocket's maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage. Credit: Blue Origin

The entrepreneurial company Blue Origin is the winner of the Society’s 2016 Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering. This award recognizes the company’s two recent major achievements: (1) The first successful vertical landing by a large rocket which has reached space and carried a payload (an empty passenger capsule which descended separately by parachute). This flight by the New Shepard vehicle occurred on Nov. 23, 2015 at the company’s test range near the remote West Texas town of Van Horn. (2) Subsequently, the same rocket was flown again and performed a second perfect landing in January 2016, which constitutes the first re-use of a large rocket which has reached space. Creating reusable rockets has been the “holy grail” for many in the space industry for decades, and is a fundamental requirement for spaceflight to be inexpensive enough for general and large scale use.

Mr. Rob Meyerson, the company’s President, will accept the award in the name of Blue Origin on May 22 at the National Space Society’s 2016 International Space Development Conference® (isdc.nss.org/2016). This will be the 35th ISDC and will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The conference will run from May 18-22, 2016. NSS invites the public to attend ISDC and witness this award presentation.

About the Space Pioneer Award

NSS Space Pioneer AwardThe Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist. The globe, as shown at left, which represents multiple space mission destinations and goals, sits freely on a brass support with a wooden base and brass plaque, which are created by Michael Hall’s Studio Foundry of Driftwood, TX. NSS has several different categories under which the award is presented each year, starting in 1988. Some of the recent winners of Space Pioneer Awards include Elon Musk, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bigelow, citizen astronaut Anouseh Ansari, Dr. Kip Thorne, and the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission team.

About Blue Origin and Its Reusable Rocket Development Program

Blue Origin is a privately funded company set up by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos. It designed and built the single stage New Shepard rocket as a means of developing a reusable vehicle and to provide sub-orbital launch services for passengers. The company has about 400 employees at several locations. It intends to build a rocket manufacturing plant near Cape Canaveral in Florida and is developing a new methane and liquid oxygen fueled rocket engine, the BE-4, which will be used to power orbital rockets, including ones of its own design. The company’s name refers to the Blue Planet: Earth, the origin of humanity. It has a headquarters in Kent, Washington, near Seattle.

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Space Solar Power Team Breaks Through at D3 Innovation Summit

SSPD3The National Space Society congratulates the Space Solar Power D3 (SSPD3) team on sweeping the awards in a March 2 multi-departmental competition to find promising new technology ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, defense and development (D3). The SSPD3 team proposal was titled “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.”

“Our multi-agency industry team proposal was in the top 1% of ideas picked to present to the very senior panel including the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the D3 Innovation Challenge, a first-of-a-kind contest for ideas sourced from across the Department of Defense, Department of State, and United States Agency for International Development by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State themselves,” said team member Peter Garretson. “Our idea to start a national Space Solar Power Program won hands down, taking four of seven possible awards,” he said.

SSPD3

Paul Jaffe and Peter Garretson with Awards

Space Solar Power (SSP) is an energy concept where an orbiting satellite gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth. SSP can solve our energy and greenhouse gas emissions problems and provide large quantities of energy to each and every person on Earth with very little environmental impact. This was the first time that SSP was briefed at such a high level.

The space solar power D3 team includes members of the Air Force’s Air University, the Naval Research Lab, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the Joint Staff Logistics and Energy Division, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, the Army, and the Space Development Steering Committee.

“Space Solar Power has made a giant leap forward thanks to Paul Jaffe, Peter Garretson, and the rest of the team,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President  and Chairman of the NSS Policy Committee, adding, “We at NSS look forward to continuing to promote SSP at the national and international levels.” Space Solar Power is one of the milestones that NSS envisions on the road to a prosperous future where the resources of space come to benefit us on Earth. The NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (www.nss.org/roadmap ) documents this and other milestones.

Further Resources:

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D3 Space Solar Power Presentation

In 2015 a challenge was issued across the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the US Agency for International Development for the best ideas to advance U.S. diplomacy, defense and development (the 3 D’s of foreign policy). Of 500 ideas submitted, the D3 Space Solar Power D3 multi-agency-industry submission was in the top 1% of ideas chosen to present at the D3 innovation summit. This idea won 4 of the 7 possible awards: the Innovation Award, the People’s Choice Award, the best Interagency Collaboration Award, and also best Presentation. An 11-minute video of the presentation is below.

More on the D3 Space Solar Power proposal.

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