Press Release

Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Agree to Study Human-qualified Atlas V Rocket for Entrepreneurial Space Development

By SpaceRef Editor
September 23, 2006
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Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Agree to Study Human-qualified Atlas V Rocket for Entrepreneurial Space Development

Atlas V Could Be Used to Launch Passengers to Bigelow-Built Commercial Space Complexes

LAS VEGAS, NV, September 21, 2006 – Lockheed Martin has entered into an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to pursue the potential of launching passengers on human-qualified Atlas V rockets. The destination would be a Bigelow-built space complex assembled from expandable modules. Bigelow’s first launch of a prototype expandable module, Genesis I, took place on July 12th atop a Dnepr rocket from Russia.

Bigelow Aerospace, located in Las Vegas, NV, plans to provide a low-cost, low-Earth orbit (LEO) human-qualified space complex that is accessible to the private sector for commercial activities. The Bigelow architecture can be adapted for a variety of missions. The Bigelow platform is being designed to provide increased volume, enhanced safety, and reduce costs to the extent that space-based activities will become affordable for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and the public at large.

“We need to encourage creativity, imagination, and innovation in order to bring the benefits of space development to fruition, not just for the privileged few, but for all of humanity,” said visionary company founder and President Robert T. Bigelow.

Bigelow Aerospace Corporate Counsel Mike Gold echoed these sentiments, “Prohibitive costs have kept the private sector out of space and relegated true space development to the status of an unfulfilled dream. Our overarching goal at Bigelow Aerospace is to radically reduce these costs, thereby opening the frontier of space to everyone. However, the enormous expense of transporting crew and cargo to and from LEO remains a significant barrier. We look forward to working with Lockheed Martin to explore the potential of the Atlas V to become the transportation system that will open up this new frontier for all of us.”

“LM Atlas V is one of the most reliable launch vehicles serving the expendable Launch vehicle markets today. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the entrepreneurial and innovative company of Bigelow aerospace to evaluate the market of space tourism and research to determine if Atlas could be a part of this potential new market area.” said George Sowers, Atlas Business Development and Advanced Programs Director.

Initially, the two companies will focus on exploring the technical requirements for the human-qualified launch services needed to transport commercial crew and cargo to expandable orbital space complexes. Bigelow and Lockheed Martin will examine the production and supply of Atlas rockets and comprehensive data describing flight safety and performance. Potential business models and business plans will also be discussed. Following this initial stage, each company will evaluate the feasibility of proceeding with a program to develop a human-qualified Atlas to meet the expected demand.

Atlas is presently used to launch government and commercial payloads to a wide range of orbits. Its reliability record is at the top of the space industry. A potential passenger capsule for Bigelow would likely be launched aboard the Atlas V 401 configuration, the simplest, most robust, and most reliable version of the Atlas V. An Atlas launch vehicle compliant with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (“FAA-AST”) requirements could demonstrate human-qualified system upgrades on a commercial or government mission prior to flying the first passengers. Those demonstrated upgrades will significantly increase the understanding and characterization of Atlas system performance and ultimately enhance reliability.

Atlas boosters and Centaur upper stages are built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company at facilities in Denver, CO; Harlingen, Texas; and San Diego, CA Atlas launch operations are conducted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

About Bigelow Aerospace Bigelow Aerospace is an entrepreneurial space development company headquartered in Las Vegas, NV Bigelow Aerospace’s goal is to open the frontier of space to all of humanity by drastically reducing the costs and enhancing the efficacy and utility of space-based activities. The company’s primary focus is on the development of robust, next-generation expandable space habitats. Bigelow Aerospace has manufacturing facilities and offices in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Houston, and Maryland.

SpaceRef staff editor.