Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bob Bigelow to the Moon

Click the arrow to watch the CNBC video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

CNBC posted an article February 18 about Bigelow Aerospace, which includes some nuances we haven't read before.

The article reports that the Bigelow Olympus, with a volume of 2,250 cubic meters, will need a “superheavy” launch rocket. The Olympus will have to be built near a seaport so it can be ferried to a launch site.

Bigelow's eventual goal is a lunar base, but it would be assembled in low Earth orbit, then pushed to lunar orbit and lowered to the surface using tugs.

An artist's concept of the Bigelow Olympus habitat. Image source: Bloomberg Newsweek.

In related news, The Economist on February 16 reported on Bigelow's request for the federal government to clarify private property rights on the Moon.

The application is not directly seeking private property rights or exclusive ownership of lunar resources; the company is requesting government, and by extension, Outer Space Treaty, assurance that its private spacecraft can run without interference or possible collisions with licensed vessels already in operation. In other words, Bigelow Aerospace is asking for the ability to use the moon and its resources in order to shore up its capital investments.

Whether such usage equates to property rights or ownership is an international legal debate. Bigelow Aerospace lawyers point out that an effective national and international licensing system has meant that satellite companies operate successfully and peacefully without actually owning the space they occupy.

The company also contends that FAA AST commercial licensing requires a 200km (124 mile) buffer zone of operation for each spacecraft. This means the government is obliged already to maintain safe operations in space, limit liability and prevent crashes between private entities that could cause damage on and around the Moon.

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