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Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the in-space-no-one-knows-you're-first dept.

Space 122

Raver32 writes "Following the successful launch and deployment of two inflatable space modules, on Monday the owner and founder of Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to move ahead with the launch of its first human habitable spacecraft, the Sundancer. The decision to fast-track Sundancer was made in part due to rising launch costs as well as the ability to test some systems on the ground, company CEO Robert Bigelow said in a press statement. 'As anyone associated with the aerospace industry is aware, global launch costs have been rising rapidly over the course of the past few years,' Bigelow is quoted as saying. 'These price hikes have been most acute in Russia due to a number of factors including inflation, previous artificially low launch costs and the falling value of the US dollar.'"

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Size = three trailers (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232293)

TFA said 180 meters**2 of livable space. I have no intuitive feel for that, so I did some quick conversion: that's about three 18-wheeler trailers.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

farkus888 (1103903) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232401)

3 18 wheeler trailers have about 1200 sq ft of floor space combined[53 ft trailers]. By no means huge but very livable. the average townhouse in my area seems to be about 1700 sq ft of livable space. but we all know they are filled with crap that wouldn't be needed for a 6 month trip to space.

Re:Size = three trailers (5, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232419)

remember, on earth we look at homes by floorplans. In space, things can be utilized more efficiently because your ceiling is your floor is your wall. You can have a bed on the ceiling and free up 'floor' space. It's all relative. There need not be blank walls, unless there is a window with a view.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234391)

Come on, why do you need a bed in space? It's not like springs and matresses are needed to relieve pressure on your weightless spine. Just wrap yourself in a blanket and tie corners to a wall to avoid floating away. Save the space for an eleptical machine to keep your muscles from atrophying instead. And leave some empty space on the floor for walking with magnetic boots or assisted with centrifugal force. On the second thought, this will require a module much larger than a truck and seriously spoil your view.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234609)

Come on, why do you need a bed in space? It's not like springs and matresses are needed to relieve pressure on your weightless spine. Just wrap yourself in a blanket and tie corners to a wall to avoid floating away. Save the space for an eleptical machine to keep your muscles from atrophying instead.

I need a bed (or the zero-g equivalent) because I'm a human, and humans are territorial creatures. As such I'm not comfortable sleeping in a spot which isn't "mine" in some hard-to-define sense. Sure, I can overcome those instincts, but that is going to cause stress, which is already everpresent in a spaceflight.

Then there's the matter of spaceships not having much room, so there aren't many spots I can leave my sleeping body to without it being on the way. Once such a spot is found, it makes sense to reuse it each time I need sleep; it also makes sense to leave the sheets or whatever there rather than transport them around, so there you have it: a bed, or the zero-g equivalent thereof.

Oh, and I don't need springs on Earth either; they're simply more comfortable. I can sleep just fine on hard floor, as long as it is warm and I have a pillow.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235705)

Who said a 'bed' had to be a box spring and a matress? My bed in college was a couch. In space a thin sleeping bag could work nicely. Larger, though, to accomodate the significant other :P

And an elliptical machine isnt gonna do you much good in space. You need an exercise machine that puts your body in compression to retain bone mass.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232491)

A standard US/Canada trailer is 53 feet long.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232493)

Why not just convert it to square feet, the standard floor space measure in the US and Canada? 1 m^2 = 10.764 sqft, so the whole thing is over 1900 sqft, or about the size of a reasonably sized house. Many one bedroom condos are around 600 sqft, so this really is quite large.

Re:Size = three trailers (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232517)

Ok, for a start, the article said 180 cubic meters. The habitat is a cylinder, and from the pictures appears to be only slightly longer than it is wide. So, we know the radius of the cylinder must be about half the length. pi * 3 * 3 * 6.37 is about 180. So the radius is probably 3 meters. So imagine a cylinder lying on its side, two stories high, and about as long. And imagine you're in zero gravity, so you have all that space to work in once you build gantries in it.

Re:Size = three trailers (2, Funny)

toppavak (943659) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233075)

thats still a hell of a lot more spacious than my apartment...

Re:Size = three trailers (3, Funny)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233175)

But is it bigger than your mom's basement? Bet you regret moving out now, huh, buddy?

Re:Size = three trailers (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232519)

TFA said 180 meters**2 of livable space. I have no intuitive feel for that, so I did some quick conversion: that's about three 18-wheeler trailers.
Another way to think about it is that the 180 m^3 in their initial "small-size" Sundancer [wikipedia.org] prototype module is 42.3% of the total current internal volume of all the modules in the International Space Station (425 m^3). Bigelow's next planning on producing BA 330 [wikipedia.org] modules, each of which will have 330 m^3 and can be linked up with each other and the Sundancer.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

todd1000 (708499) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232533)

It's more like 2 trailers, but still pretty big. About the same volume as an 850 ft^2 house with 8 foot ceilings.

53*8*8/3.3^3
94

53 feet long and about 8x8, then convert to cubic metres.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232759)

About the same volume as an 850 ft^2 house with 8 foot ceilings.

      Plus the great advantage is that you can use the floor-space AND the ceiling space... ?

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232569)

A large 6 room apartment might have around 180 m2, or perhaps a 4 room house. A moderate 3 room apartment might be around 100m2. That should be a little more useful than 18-wheeler trailers for imagining livable space ;)

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232659)

I should have probably RTFA first... The 180 are not square, but cubic metres, making the whole comparison to appartments/houses pointless. However, since I'm making yet another post anyway, I'll mention that the standard 45' containers are around 86m^3 inside, so two containers give us almost the needed volume.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232741)

TFA said 180 meters**2 of livable space. I have no intuitive feel for that, so I did some quick conversion: that's about three 18-wheeler trailers.
--
Ooops! I meant cubed, not squared. And I am assuming the standard trailer is about 20ft long.
That was bizarre...I wondered if Slashdot had added a comment-editing feature until I realized he'd changed his signature to match.

Needed features (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232945)

What is bizarre is that slashdot does not have a comment-editing feature.

Re:Needed features (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233867)

I think they figured that comment editing would be utilized mainly by trolls.

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233307)

FYI, I think the char you were looking for is ^. You use that to represent superscript when on old style text interfaces:
eg. x^2

Re:Size = three trailers (1)

Viceroy Potatohead (954845) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233315)

It's all really quite simple: you have something that can contain 180 tonnes of water, or 180 kilolitres of water, or a block 3m by 10m by 6m. For the easy sake of general size, say 200 tons of water, 45,000 gallons, or 10ft by 30ft by 20ft. Surely that is at least as intuitive and accurate as truck trailers.

Linus is right (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232345)

I am with Linus on this one. For the life of me I can't understand what this sucking up to RMS is about.
Linus himself does not think GPLv3 is a good thing. So why do people keep adopting it.

Linux is right (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232437)

I am with Linux on this one. For the life of me I can't understand what this sucking up to RMS is about.
Linux itself does not think GPLv3 is a good thing. So why do people keep adopting it.

Mod parent INSIGHTFUL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232757)

GPLv2 is *NOT* restrictive to the end user. I think that it is much more fair and balanced. But then again, we live in this authoritarian society now where IP **MUST** be enforced!

Re:Linus is right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232477)

Maybe we can put RMS into orbit wearing a silver suit, and use him to bounce signals off of?

no... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232531)

gpl3 is too gay for even that!

No sharp objects... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232359)

Inflatable, eh? Sounds, er, dangerous. No sharp objects, I hope... And there's a joke here somewhere.

Re:No sharp objects... (2, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232415)

I believe they had to tackle the problem about inflation first...

Re:No sharp objects... (5, Funny)

alexfeig (1030762) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232417)

I hate to burst your bubble, but there aren't any jokes I can think of.

Re:No sharp objects... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232425)

Not stretchy balloon inflatable, ridged structures with flexibly composite connections folded up for launch and inflated once in orbit. More like collapsible rather than inflatable.

Re:No sharp objects... (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232649)

Parent comment: Inflatable, eh? Sounds, er, dangerous. No sharp objects, I hope...

Ugh, this ends up coming up every time there's a story on Bigelow Aerospace's habitat modules. From the wikipedia article on Bigelow Aerospace [wikipedia.org] :

Contrary to many expectations, Bigelow Aerospace anticipates that its inflatable modules will be more durable than rigid modules.[3] This is partially due to the company's use of several layers of vectran, a material twice as strong as kevlar, and also because, in theory, flexible walls should be able to sustain micrometeorite impacts better than rigid walls.
Also, from the BA 330 article [wikipedia.org] :

Its skin, made of high-strength textiles and Vectran-like materials, is wrapped with several layers of high-tension straps. It is particularly resistant to damage from micrometeorites and debris. ... It is incorrect to equate it with an air-filled balloon floating in space. Rather, when expanded the outer shell is as hard to the touch as concrete,[1] the redundancy of the multiple (10+) layers of the bladder tends to rapidly distribute the impact energy of very low-mass high-speed impactors through the layers. A regular aluminium space station module negates an impact with Kevlar armor or other absorptive material, which is marginally more likely to suffer a catastrophic puncture in the event of an impact.

Re:No sharp objects... (1)

gandrade (653471) | more than 7 years ago | (#20238317)

I wonder if this material can somehow be used in the aid of cleaning up/capture the space junk in orbit. Maybe not the larger ones, but the smaller objects.

Is there anything in the works to clean up all that space junk?

Re:No sharp objects... (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20239111)

This idea sounds along the lines of "sweeping up the sand in the desert." If, by space junk, you're refering to man-made objects... all of them happen to be space-craft, the smallest piece you're going to find is probably a broken off solar panel from a satallite, and that's probably about 20ft long. So no, it's not really very relivent. But if you're REALLY insistant on it, for, smaller objects, it would just be better to de-orbit them. Most satallites will break up and burn up into non-harmful compounds upon re-entry.

Re:No sharp objects... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234689)

It will just take one prick to mess the whole thing up.

By all means, rush development! (3, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232439)

I'm looking forward to the rushed development of their man-rated vehicle. This is for space, after all! What could possibly go wrong?

Re:By all means, rush development! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232529)

the word is 'habitat'. They're not making launch vehicles.

Re:By all means, rush development! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232893)

Given that Bigelow is the only commercial space company to have working hardware in orbit, I'm not too worried.

Re:By all means, rush development! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232919)

Umm.. you don't consider the thousands of satellite manufacturers [satellite-links.co.uk] to be "commercial space companies"? Or maybe satellites are just not "hardware"? BTW, what's "working" mean to you?

In short, what are you rambling about?

Re:By all means, rush development! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20233065)

In short, what are you rambling about?

Perhaps he's referring to habitable hardware in orbit.

Similar to Apollo space program (5, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233039)

Skipping a step or two in the development of a space craft (or habitat) is not without precedent. After the Apollo 1 disaster, NASA stepped back for a year from its already horrific schedule to rethink safety. By the time they were ready to restart they were so far behind schedule that, had they stuck to the original plan, they would never have made it "before this decade is out" (John F. Kennedy).

Then some particularly enlightened (and ballsy) director made a brilliant decision. Instead of testing first the booster, then the booster plus the second stage, then the booster and the second stage plus the third stage, and then everything with the spacecraft "stack" and finally all of this with the command module having an (unmanned) re-entry at escape velocity speeds (the third stage would be used to propel the space craft DOWN) he had the following idea. (Actually I'm sure the idea was floating around, HE had the power to make it happen).

Since everything is ready (on the ground at least) why not test everything at once?

It worked. The unmanned Apollo 5(?) not to be confused with the launcher Saturn 5 (or in Roman numerals V) worked flawlessly and was a huge success. With it, NASA made up all of its lost time and then some and was able to land man on the moon in the summer of 1969.

The things the United States (and the world) is capable of, given the will and dedication of its people, is simply astounding. Gives me hope at the same time I despair as how it has been squandered by the present administration.

Re:Similar to Apollo space program (5, Insightful)

Grismar (840501) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233687)

The things the United States (and the world) is capable of, given the will and dedication of its people, is simply astounding. Gives me hope at the same time I despair as how it has been squandered by the present administration.

I don't know which is more depressing: the knowledge that mankind can't do great things, or the knowledge that we can, but don't and waste our time and resources making other people's lives miserable over oil and heroin.

Dunno which is a bigger waste, though (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234403)

Well, the thing is, the space race has been mostly about international penis size, rather than any actual benefits. The moon _still_ has no economic or military value, for example, and getting a man there was just an artificial milestone, for example. "Oh yeah, we're so much greater than the Russians because we put a man where neither of us had a reason to," basically.

Yes, there have been some materials and technologies which then trickled down to civillian use, but then the same advances could have been made by just funding more research without the overhead of the manned space race.

Some would have been made anyway because either the private sector (e.g., computers) or the military sector (e.g., ablative tiles) needed them anyway, and there's no difference between developping them for an ICBM and developping them for a manned shuttle. (Unmanned) Satellites would have happened even without the Apollo program, for example.

Some space stuff has been just a monumental waste all around with nearly zero benefits.

The original shuttle concept for example, was more like a car: a small reusable vehicle for the humans and maybe some small satellites, doing up and down trips all the time, and lifting all those small satellites. There were a _lot_ of those little trips needed even so, to recoup the costs.

But then NASA wanted the Air Force's budget, so they had to promise that they can lift those huge spy satellites _and_ be able to put them in a polar orbit. So the shuttle got inflated to the space equivalent of an 18 wheeler, and costs raised through the roof, to the point where it's a huge waste to actually use it for its original purpose. Everyone still puts their small satellites up by normal rockets, which was a job the shuttle was supposed to take over. But it's just not worth using it. It's big, it's unreliable (now it has damaged tiles again, for example), it needs hideous amounts of fuel, and it's grounded most of the time.

It's telling that even Bigelow puts this stuff up there with Russian rockets instead. Yes, I know, prices are lower in the poorer ex-USSR, but the propaganda was that the reusable space shuttle will make liftoff so damn cheap, that the russkies and their rockets will be obsolete overnight. It sure didn't work that way, eh?

And, oh, the Air Force still didn't get its money worth either. They still ended up using their own rockets to put those spy satellites in orbit.

It's one thing that was a waste all around, and kept around only as a national penis size symbol. No better than other historical wastes, like the pyramids. (Contrary to what Civilization said, they don't give you a free granary in every city;) It's just a national "look what a big expensive thing we can build" symbol, nothing more.

So, much as I'm a Star Wars and Star Trek fan too, sometimes it's time to call a waste a waste. Lamenting that we could do more of that instead of doing what actually works down here (you still use oil, don't you?), is a bit weird. It's a bit like saying that we should invest more in building obelisks instead of roads.

Yes, we can do great achievements if we want to, but a lot has been artificial achievements which cost a lot and delivered very little that was actually needed at that time. Similarly you could say that it's depressing that we could build a pyramid as big as Cheops's when we wanted, but the evil current administration isn't building one for Bush. Why would it want to?

And please note the "at that time" in the above paragraph, if someone feels like letting it rip with how important it will be in the future, or how the human race needs to expand before the Sun goes red giant in 5 billion years. If we'll actually need that stuff in the future, we'll do it in the future. Maybe we'll have invented better engines in the meantime, or maybe we'll have better materials, or maybe (as with Bigelow) someone will have imagined an actual economic benefit for doing so, as opposed to being just a pork barrel exercise.

In a nutshell: why do you find it depressing that we don't waste more?

Re:Dunno which is a bigger waste, though (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234965)

Some would have been made anyway because either the private sector (e.g., computers) or the military sector (e.g., ablative tiles) needed them anyway, and there's no difference between developping them for an ICBM and developping them for a manned shuttle.
You get different people working on the problem. If you say 'we need researchers to help us find more efficient ways of killing people,' you're going to get a different set of applicants to if you say 'we need researchers to help us with the first step in exploring the solar system.' It's a lot easier to motivate top-tier researchers with a puzzle that no one has solved yet, especially if they know another team is also working on it.

Wrong (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234983)

The moon _still_ has no economic or military value

There are large amounts of titanium, selenium and Helium III on the moon that would probably be highly offended at this remark.

Bull (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235211)

There are large amounts of titanium, selenium and Helium III on the moon that would probably be highly offended at this remark.
... at a price noone wants to pay. I'm sorry, but then I'll stick with the original statement: the moon still has no economic or military value.

And here's another thought: if it _had_ any economic value, private initiative would be all over it. You wouldn't need government money to go there.

Re:Bull (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235799)

Private initiatives **Are** working at it. First step is LEO. From LEO, you are halfway to anywhere in the solar system. A great number of private ventures are working on LEO access.

... at a price noone wants to pay. I'm sorry, but then I'll stick with the original statement: the moon still has no economic or military value.

The delta-V to get to the moon is something on the order of 13 km/sec. Which sucks. The delta-V from the moon to earth reentry is somewhere around 3 km/sec. So if we send up some people and some processing machinery, returning stuff is easy compared to what it took to get it up there, because you've sent it out of the gravity well of earth. Returning it is as easy as getting it out of the moon's gravity well to LEO (2.74 km/sec) and giving it a little kick in the pants to re-enter. You could use (eventually) a rail gun, etc. It isn't something we can do tomorrow but in the next 20-40 years? Definitely.

Read 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' by Heinelien for an envisionment of a moon outpost for materials processing and return...

This might be a bad analogy... (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235481)

Do you think art is a waste of time/money/resources as well? I won't debate your finer points about the relative merit about the Space Shuttle as realized versus what it could've/should've been (mainly because I have no idea, and think it's quite possible you're right), but I think that manned space travel is important in and of itself. Sure, anytime the government gets involved things tend to cost more than most of us (including me, in case that's not clear) think they should, but I think that's a separate problem from the value of manned space travel. I do agree, of course, that Bigelow (or similar strategies) might be a shining example that could yield the best results.

Let's talk art, then (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236153)

Well, I guess I should be grateful that you brought up art, because it's probably a better illustration of what I'm trying to say.

See, art so far has been created by private initiative. You have, say, a novellist writing a novel on his own time (and thus expense), then they take it to a publisher who's privately owned, which then try to sell it to individual people like you and me. Which can jolly well decide whether they want to buy it or not.

It's capitalism at its finest. The market can and does decide how much they want of any particular novel, or how much of the whole. And how much they want to pay for it.

And in true capitalism fashion, duds die and get silently buried. It doesn't get to be artificially kept alive and costing billions in tax dollar money, like the Space Shuttle was.

I'd have nothing against space exploration being like that too. Honestly.

Conversely I would have something against it if the government wasted my money to keep a bunch of guys doing art for art sake, in some ivory tower where they don't actually have to fulfill any social need or appeal to anyone's taste.

Sure, maybe we'd get some great works of art, if the state sponsored unpopular artists to keep working on it anyway. But chances are we'd just get crap. I don't know if the USSR actually had such an establishment (though it wouldn't surprise me), but half the plot of Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" makes fun of exactly that kind of an artificial literary establishment of the Soviet state. I'm guessing Bulgakov didn't like it much.

If? (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236955)

Conversely I would have something against it if the government wasted my money to keep a bunch of guys doing art for art sake, in some ivory tower where they don't actually have to fulfill any social need or appeal to anyone's taste.
If? Granted, the private sector (probably) provides the majority of funding for the arts, but a rather significant portion does indeed come from the public sector - at multiple levels of government. (I have no idea how significant - it might be less than 1%, although I doubt it. I'd still call that significant when we're talking about at least millions of dollars. Granted, this is still cheaper than the shuttle.)

hmmm (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232449)

It seems to me that there has to be some sort of quantum leap in design, manufacture, and fuel in order to make space travel economically possible for even the most wealthy human beings. I mean, why would I want a flight from NY to LA to take 20 minutes when it's going to cost me $30,000+? (estimated) I don't care how much money you make in a year. Anyone would be insane to waste that kind of money.

I, for one, welcome our space-borne overlords... at affordable prices...

Re:hmmm (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232503)

Do you realize just how small a quantum leap is? It is the closest one can get to zero...

Re:hmmm (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232589)

Figurative quantum leap... not literal...

Re:hmmm (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232719)

try galatical or astronomical next time. Figurative quantum leap is still small, but a leap doesn't physically occur.

Re:hmmm (2, Insightful)

biocute (936687) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232557)

why would I want a flight from NY to LA to take 20 minutes when it's going to cost me $30,000+?

Most people wouldn't, or couldn't afford to. However you'll be surprised how many people can and are willing to spend $30K to fly from New York to London to pick up a $100K designer handbag at 4pm, and return just in time to attend a party at 5pm.

Re:hmmm (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234601)

Get real. They'd arrive at Heathrow around 10:00 at night London time and by the time they've got through customs and negotiated transport to Oxford Street or Kensington, it'll be closer to 11:00. Much of the designer shopping will have closed for the night by then.

Re:hmmm (4, Insightful)

imemyself (757318) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232613)

Some people (granted, not many) paid $10k to fly across the Atlantic in three hours in the Concorde. NYC to LA is roughly comparable to NYC to UK distance wise. For about a sixth of the time, and only three times the price, its a better deal than the Concorde.

Re:hmmm (4, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232687)

Well, there are some relatively common circumstances that might warrant ultra-fast transcontinental travel. Just as one example, if there was a heart available for transplant, for example, then many people would pay the extra $28,000 to have it arrive in 30 minutes instead of 24 hours.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232879)

Imagine the opportunities for lard arse first worlders to buy nice fresh organs off those stuck in abject poverty. Go globalisation!

Re:hmmm (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234677)

I suppose you intended it to sound bad, but that would be an improvement over the current circumstances. At least, those people would have some value again.

Re:hmmm (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232859)

I question your numbers. Using current launch capabilities your figure is way too low. Personally, I'm not too interested in NY to LA. I'm more interested in NY to London or Sydney. For that you're actually going to have to hit orbit. SpaceX's Falcon 1 is the world's lowest cost per flight to orbit of a production rocket. A standard Falcon 1 mission is $7 million.

Of course, if you're talking about the future, and want to be super optimistic about it, then let's think about reusable launch vehicles. Basically the entire cost of the vehicle can be ignored, as it will be amortized over its use. So that leaves fuel, taxes, insurance, etc. A flight on a plane, today, is basically just the price of the fuel plus a thin margin. So fuel is a pretty good indicator of how cheap rocket travel could ever be.

Armadillo Aerospace are talking up a modular reusable rocket concept. They've flown some modules, but they're still a few years off putting a person on it. Each module has 180 pounds ethanol and 250 pounds LOX and they're saying 64 modules to get to orbit. Ignoring, for now, the fact that they have no idea how to deorbit - they intend to make some money from one way trips, like, satellite launches, etc. That's about $28 for the ethanol, $9 for the LOX, per module, or $2368 for an orbital flight. Even if you double that to do an inefficient re-entry and retro-rocket landing, that's still pretty cheap to go from any two points on the planet. Especially when you consider that every time they throw someone from one continent to another they can also drop something off in space, they can divide the cost between many stakeholders.

And this is all with garage level technology. There's no scaled composites here. There's no turbo pumps and aerodynamic wings. And there's no tethers or laser propulsion systems or any of the other fancy innovations that we might see in the distance future.

Re:hmmm (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233545)

I question your numbers. Using current launch capabilities your figure is way too low. Personally, I'm not too interested in NY to LA. I'm more interested in NY to London or Sydney. For that you're actually going to have to hit orbit. SpaceX's Falcon 1 is the world's lowest cost per flight to orbit of a production rocket. A standard Falcon 1 mission is $7 million.


Now, explain to me why you need to go into orbit to get from one point on Earth to another? If you hit orbit, then you need to actively fight your way back down, so it's probably just a silly waste of resources to enter orbit for Earth-Earth transit when a ballistic trajectory will do fine. I won't say I know just what a NY to Sydney trip would be in a practical transport rocket, but I imagine that it wouldn't need to be seven million dollars.

Re:hmmm (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233621)

Cause at some point a "suborbital hop" becomes so long that you *are* in orbit. New York to Sydney is 10,000 miles (16,000 km). Orbital velocity for 185km altitude is 7.79 km/sec, or 28044 km/hr. So if you want to jump from New York to Sydney you're going to need to spend 34 minutes in orbit at that altitude, so you only have 26 minutes to ascend and descend if you want to do the whole trip in less than an hour.

If you don't go that high then you'll never be able to do that kind of speed (it'd be Mach 24 at sea level).

You'll burn up.

Re:hmmm (1)

markk (35828) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234649)

" question your numbers. Using current launch capabilities your figure is way too low. Personally, I'm not too interested in NY to LA. I'm more interested in NY to London or Sydney. For that you're actually going to have to hit orbit."

Ahh... No that is not true. Anywhere to anywhere even halfway around the world is always very much easier than going to orbit. In fact just going all the way around once and land at your start site is easier than a stable orbit. Suborbital NYC to Sydney is in the same ballpark in efficiency as flying there.

Re:hmmm (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232861)

...I don't care how much money you make in a year. Anyone would be insane to waste that kind of money.

The people who would buy such a ticket don't make any money in a year. Their money makes money.

Most large business jets in the $30-$50 million range are impulse purchases. There's a guy out there who has ordered a private Airbus A380. The world's largest private yacht is not much smaller than the Titanic.

And on and on. There are people with literally more money than they can spend. If one was to suggest to them that they should save $50,000 on the price of an airline ticket, one would be met with a blank stare of incomprehension.

Re:hmmm (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233059)

It seems to me that there has to be some sort of quantum leap in design, manufacture, and fuel in order to make space travel economically possible for even the most wealthy human beings.
You'll never get modded up around here talking like that. We're already planning our vacations for 2012 when that luxury space hotel opens up!

Re:hmmm (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233131)

You're assuming I care about mod numbers. I don't know if you were joking or not with that first sentence. The second sentence would have to be a +1 absurd!

Re:hmmm (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233139)

I mean, why would I want a flight from NY to LA to take 20 minutes when it's going to cost me $30,000+? (estimated) I don't care how much money you make in a year. Anyone would be insane to waste that kind of money.
For real jet-setters with their own planes, that's not very much money and the cost is going to be roughly constant wherever you go.

NY to LA isn't all that smart of a route to do that for though. The time doesn't make that much difference after you factor in all the local transportation costs (and security). Now, NY or LA to Tokyo or Singapore or Beijing in under an hour? That's a different matter. It costs about US$2000 and 12 - 18 hours now to fly across the Pacific from the west coast (somewhat less if you shop for tickets and are willing to ride steerage), but that's still within an order of magnitude.

I for one would welcome a fast way to get to our new Asian overlords who own most of the US debt.

oh, really? (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233439)

If BG (or ellis, or McNealy, ....) could fly from NY to LA in 20 minutes, they (or their company) would gladly pay 50K+ for that. Their time really is worth that. Somebody once showed that BG would actaully lose money to bend over and pick up a 100 bill from the sidewalk (and that was in early 90's). Why would they pay this? Because travel is expensive in terms of time.

Re:hmmm (1)

high_rolla (1068540) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233865)

Well like anything else, I'm sure it'll be refined over time and the costs will come down.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20234583)

the cost per hour to rent an executive jet:

Light Executive Jet
LearJet 35 - 7 passengers (1,900 mile range) $1800/hr

Midsize Executive Jet
Hawker 800XP - 8 passengers (2,700 mile range) $2700/hr

Heavy Executive Jet
Gulfstream IV - 13 passengers (4,500 mile range) $5200/hr

Average flight time between LA and NY is about 5.5 Hours

So renting a Gulfstream IV for that trip is $28,600. So, a 20 min trip that costs $30,000 isn't so bad, for the people that have that kind of money.

GNAA Photoshoot (1)

alfs boner (963844) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232451)

^_^ [imageshack.us]

It looks so unsafe! Improper application of tech! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232455)

With the threat of mirco-meteorites, radiation, paint chips, styrofoam, old satelites, and other space refuse; this technology should be scraped! I'm sorry really. I know materials are hard to get into space but protection is paramount for the Astronauts. Perhaps investing in deflector shields, structural integrity fields, defensive lasers, and more powerful thrusters for space craft that can traverse back and forth between earth an the station quicker would be wiser. I know it's a tall order but sitting at a terminal in a balloon in space with potential darts flying around is a numbers game that NO ONE should participate in no matter how good the money is. This technology is better suited for underwater research instead?

Re:It looks so unsafe! Improper application of tec (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232599)

This technology is better suited for underwater research instead?

narwhal [nationalgeographic.com]

Re:It looks so unsafe! Improper application of tec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232771)

Yeah, a lightweight inflatable tube of air is great for underwater research. Sinks like a rock, it does.

Re:It looks so unsafe! Improper application of tec (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232799)

Except, of course, that this material is more resistant to the dangerous objects you just mentioned than the solid aluminium and kevlar of the ISS. Its flexibility allows it to absorb much more of the energy from an impact than a rigid structure.

"balloons" can be made very safe (5, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233079)

Perhaps you should look at the "balloons" you're riding on (cars and motorcycles at least). Talk about an application where "the rubber meets the road"; it shows how you can engineer (and on a vast industrial scale) almost anything, even safety critical equipment. Also look at the skirts of military class hovercraft. In addition to taking the abuse of pounding surf and various shrubs and other land obstacles they might blow over, they have to take direct (light) enemy fire as well as the occasional land mine.

It hasnt been said in a while.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232481)

theres prolly somethin wrong with the 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0 modulator on the hd wing sensor;)

Re:It hasnt been said in a while.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20232791)

If you bothered to read with signatures turned on, you'd know it was being said daily...

De-mountables... (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232535)

This is good! I hope they have a great success, as I can see them being used like demountables are used on constructions sites.. Once there are enough of these we can start building a manufacturing base in space

Deuce (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232539)

I can see it now, "Deuce Bigelow: Extraterrestrial Gigolo".

*shudder*

-Peter

Re:Deuce (1)

kan0r (805166) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233375)

I don't reply to ACs. If what you have to say isn't important enough to log in, why should I bother to reply?
Because they might be someone who just stumbled over some article but still makes valid points?

Re:Deuce (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235163)

That's a pretty good answer. (And I certainly read replies by ACs.)

Here's a very interesting reply [slashdot.org] I received from an AC. Trouble is it's impossible to tell if subsequent replies are from the same AC, which, in turn, makes conversation impossible.

Interestingly, someone else replied. I'd summarize that reply as, "Your post is interesting and worthwhile, you should take the trouble to log in."

Anyway, it's my policy, and you aren't required to like it ;-)

-Peter

Rob Bigelow, Aerospace Gigolo (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232549)

I'm sure Rob Bigelow is a great guy, that said, if my last name was "Bigelow," I'd probably name my company after a planet, a big cat, or something catchy that you only find in a thesaurus.

Re:Rob Bigelow, Aerospace Gigolo (1)

twostar (675002) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235475)

but that's not how companies are named in the aero industry. Boeing, Lockheed, Martin, Mcdonald, Douglas, etc. Only recently have some companies been named other things.

Official announcement; Cosmic Log article (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232571)

I'm pretty excited about this news, as it seems like Bigelow might have his human-rated space station up and running as early as 2009. Here's the text of the official announcement:

http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/multiverse/news.ph p#update [bigelowaerospace.com]

Also, here's a pretty good article from Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log [msn.com] .

Hopefully SpaceX will have some successful launches soon, in order to provide Bigelow with a drastically more cost-effective way to launch modules and people. It'd be beautiful to see a SpaceX Dragon [wikipedia.org] crew capsule taking people up to Bigelow's Sundancer habitat.

Re:Official announcement; Cosmic Log article (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232675)

It's been little reported, and they are yet to update their schedule on the web site, but Elon Musk has said SpaceX won't be launching another Falcon I until next year [thespaceshow.com] . The two launches planned for the second half of this year have been scrubbed so they can make performance improvements to the vehicle. Most notably, changing the engine from Merlin 1a to Merlin 1c, and upgrading the material on the second stage tank to a higher strength aluminum, along with some improvements to the second stage engine. Robustness issues will also be addressed.

Thanx for the update. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233499)

I have been watching fro any info about the next launch. My guess is that if the next couple of launches are successful, then we will see them servicing the ISS AND bigelow.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20233627)

Informative!

Re:Official announcement; Cosmic Log article (1)

nemoyspruce (1007869) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233127)

Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft --


alternative headline :
Bigelow scrubs Galaxy project due to increased launch costs

Even if not, it will not matter for a bit (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234399)

I suspect that Bigelow will hook this one to the ISS. Perhaps for free. They would have redundant systems via the ISS. All that was needed was to prove that the concept and manufacturing quality worked. Well, genesis is doing just that. The cool part about this, is that it could be up there by end of 2009.

Bigelow? (1)

davidc (91400) | more than 7 years ago | (#20232607)

Bigelow Aerospace. The tea that launched a thousand spaceships?

Kind of (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233483)

his aunt owns the tea and funded his initial start into hotels. If not for that, then he would not be here. But he is, so this is good.

Misleading Headline (1)

superxstudios (1142925) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233737)

The headline is a bit misleading - I've heard several interviews with Bigelow on Coast to Coast AM and AFAIK this habitat is not going to be "Manned", rather "Manned-capable". They are not sending up any people, not have any plans (or even launch vehicle) to do so. That said, I fully support what they're doing! We'll have the egg, now all we need is the creamy yolk stuff (i.e. people) to go inside. Not sure where the chicken fits in...

Re:Misleading Headline (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233755)

We'll have the egg, now all we need is the creamy yolk stuff (i.e. people) to go inside. Not sure where the chicken fits in...

Chicken == God
Creator of man and raw materials that are used to build this spacecraft.

who tagged this Science ? (0, Flamebait)

savuporo (658486) | more than 7 years ago | (#20233887)

Where is the science in it ? Its pure commercial development, it has nothing to do with NASA or CERN, apart from the technology heritage. Space is finally becoming a place of conducting other business apart from telecom and remote sensing sats, and you tag it the boring old "science" ?

Career Opportunities (1)

AxminsterLeuven (963108) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234047)

Their website looks pretty crappy, but take a look at their job openings section:

Astronauts
Las Vegas, Nevada Facility

Who May Apply:
If you are an experienced Astronaut and would like to join our team, please apply at:

Online or
Fax Resume to 702.639.0881
What about the Cosmonauts and Taikonauts, one wonders...

Unfortunately.... (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20234663)

... nobody is fast tracking a man-rated orbital launch and crew vehicle. Nor should they. They don't have a design that can be.

SpaceX has altered their plans, but it's to make improvements to the design. Kistler is tearing itself apart again with its usual money flow induced turbulence and bad management induced harmonic oscillations in its structure; Rocketplane is probably sorry by now they teamed with them. And Rutan is dealing with his recent problem while keeping things on his planned track, and I'd trust his judgement over all the others combined -- he'll pull it off when intended to with or without the recent and most any following problems. He is following the path of NASA in the 60s, with engineers making the decisions rather than having management involved in that. He'll make the metaphorical "moon by the end of the decade", but not before he intends to and his craft are built according to those intentions.

Bigelow may well have his habitat ready sooner. If so, it'll be due to the Spanish outfit's announcement last week of a 2012 deadline for a similar goal. That's a bad reason, but he's launching a habitat, not a powered vehicle. I believe he can do it. If anyone tries to fast track a launch system to keep up with that race, or to beat each other (most likely, to try to beat Rutan) they'll replay the historical "In Soviet Russia, rocket launch YOU -- in pieces."

Bad attitude? (1)

Edis Krad (1003934) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235005)

The Sundancer module will provide 180 cubic meters of habitable space and will come fully equipped with life-support systems, attitude control and on-orbit maneuverability, as well as reboost and deorbit capability
Wait.. what? Attitude control? so if you're a bad astronaut... it'll spank you?

"Bubbles in the Sky" (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235413)

I remember reading when I was a mere youth, an SF book called "Bubbles in the Sky". My recollection is that it was by Frederick Pohl. For the last several years I have been trying to track down this book, without success. It might have been 1/2 of one of those pocket books with two novellas printed back-to-back. I even remember the picture on the front, kinda. When I read it the copy was already somewhat old, the pages already browned and somewhat brittled by oxidation.

The story was about how the folks (using 1940's or 1950's tech) building a space station were initially housed in inflatable bubbles with self-healing multilayer plastic inflatables. At first crew were shipped up and down every six months, but more and more of them volunteered to stay in space and live in the bubbles. As time went on, the folks in the bubbles developed their own oxygen systems (using plants), and became increasingly close to self-sufficient.

The microgravity environment allowed body type variance to increase, and several men and women, who had by chance developed medical issues that would have killed or crippled them if they had to live on the ground, were able to live just fine in orbit. Eventually they had their own radio station, which despite low power could be heard at the appropriate times everywhere on the planet and became a popular inspiration to the folks on the ground.

About the station construction was completed, the 'suits' and 'uniforms' decided that it was time to get rid of the riff-raff and was going to force them all to abandon the bubbles, but they used the radio to broadcast their plight and generate public support on the ground, and they were also able to demonstrate that with only a little more support they could become self-sufficient, and that they were able to provide future necessary labor at much lower cost shipping people up from earth repeatedly. And thus, life in orbit became an economic and social possibility for anyone.

This story was very inspiring to me (at age 12?), and when I first heard about Bigelow I was immediately reminded of this. I even sent Bigelow and email, but I don't recall getting a response (but that's OK). I would dearly like to see and hopefully read again another copy of this story.

The bubble fabric was interesting - its self-healing qualities were such that if you stuck a knife through the side, after removing the knife it would gradually pull itself back together, and IIRC could actually cut through softer things (like flesh) to do so. The skin was also made of multiple overlapping layers, so that if a micrometeoroid went through, the cells that it penetrated would collapse and the pressure differential would maintain a temporary seal while the skin healed itself.
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