Divining clues about Bigelow’s plans

Bigelow Aerospace is not nearly as secretive as it was just a couple of years ago: it now invites journalists to tour its Las Vegas facility where it is working on inflatable module designs, and it’s even revamped its web site. Still, it’s not very forthcoming about its plans, particularly in the near term. We do know the launch of Genesis 1 (or Genesis Pathfinder 1, by some accounts), its first prototype, is planned for next month on a Dnepr rocket, but that information comes from the Roskosmos manifest, not Bigelow itself. Today, the Allied Defense Group announced that its SeaSpace subsidiary has sold two 6.1 meter antennas to Bigelow. These antennas will be used at “commercial ground station facilities in Alaska and Hawaii.” The contract is a follow-on to a deal last year where SeaSpace sold a similar antenna system to Bigelow. The report doesn’t offer any more details, although the note that the antennas will be located at commercial facilities in Alaska and Hawaii suggests that Bigelow may be working with a company like Universal Space Network, which operates a worldwide network of ground stations, including locations in Alaska and Hawaii. That doesn’t mean too much in the overall scheme of things, other than to suggest that Bigelow does seem to be continuing to make progress.

2 comments to Divining clues about Bigelow’s plans

  • Does Alaska mean he’s launching in polar orbit?

  • Jeff Foust

    Sam: It’s true that polar ground stations, like those in Alaska and northern Scandanavia, are commonly used for polar-orbiting remote sensing and telecom satellites. And there would be some benefit to have a tourist platform in a polar orbit, since visitors would thus be able to see all of the planet once a day (twice counting nighttime), rather than a narrower band available in lower-inclination orbits. However, there’s the challenge of launching into polar orbit.

    Bigelow’s decision may instead reflect the availability of commercial ground station locations, and the fact that at least his initial demonstration payloads will be launched from Baikonur and thus into 51+-degree orbits.

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