Monday, April 22, 2013

NASA, Bigelow Beyond Earth Orbit Agreement Online

NASAWatch.com posted today a copy of the Space Act Agreement between NASA and Bigelow Aerospace to study commercial space beyond Earth orbit.

Click here to download the PDF of the agreement.

The purpose of this Agreement is to facilitate and explore, in a manner that meets both national and commercial goals and objectives, joint public/private arrangements that would continue to build the ability for humans to live and work in space through the expansion of exploration capabilities beyond low Earth orbit.

You can read through the entire document; I will give it more analysis when I have the time.

At first blush, it would seem the strategy is for Bigelow to organize interested NewSpace companies and other entities into an alliance that might be the next step in NASA's commercial space transportation program. Just as NASA has grown a commercial cargo program and will soon fly astronauts on commercial crew, in the next decade we might see astronauts on commercial crew vehicles going to the Moon, staying in lunar colonies built out of Bigelow habitats, or perhaps space stations at Lagrangian points.

KLAS-TV Las Vegas journalist George Knapp broke the story on April 10, and on April 19 MSNBC.com space reporter Alan Boyle confirmed the report with more details.

One can imagine the political fireworks when the Congressional space subcommittees find out about this commercial effort to essentially undercut their favorite pork program, the Space Launch System. If successful, the NewSpace project could put NASA out of the spacecraft building business. There would still be NASA astronauts, but they would fly on commercial vehicles just as NASA employees fly on commercial airlines.

The budget review process on Capitol Hill in the next few months will be very entertaining.

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