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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

BEAM me up to space station, Mr. Bigelow

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace have signed a $17.8 million contract. The details will be released later but apparently it deals with preliminary work on the proposed BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) system for the ISS: New NASA, Bigelow Deal Puts Inflatable Space Station Module One Step Closer to Orbit -
Bigelow Aerospace, owned by Robert Bigelow of North Las Vegas, Nevada, has been in the space station business several years having operated two orbiting demonstrator stations since 2006.
NASA spokesman Josh Buck said the agency would tap one of its Commercial Resupply Services contractors, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) or Orbital Sciences Corp., to get BEAM to the space station from either Cape Canaveral, Florida or Wallops Island, Va. launch pads. A launch date appears likely prior to the end of 2016.  
SpaceX and Orbital are under contract for space station cargo deliveries through 2016. So far, only SpaceX has flown to the station. The company, which flies Dragon cargo capsules atop Falcon 9 rockets, completed its first contracted run in October. Orbital, which is developing a cargo freighter called Cygnus for launch aboard the new Antares rocket, is now scheduled to launch a demonstration cargo run in February from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, reports SpaceNews. More from Doug Messier at ParbolicArc.

Meanwhile, Russia’s largest rocket and space corporation, Energiya, has signed a 350-million-ruble contract (around $11.4 million) with Roscosmos to develop a draft design for an orbiting sky lab code-named OKA-T-MKS.

The project is proposed as a multipurpose satellite laboratory, engineered to orbit the Earth autonomously and dock with the International Space Station (ISS) from time to time. Its crew will service research equipment, handle fueling, and perform other tasks as needed, according to the Russia & India Report. The OKA-T-MKS will likely be launched in 2017 or 2018.

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