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« Made It | Main | What's-Going-On Session »

Friday Keynote

Rick Tumlinson is introducing Bob Bigelow, admiring someone who "antes up." He's worked all his life to build what he's got, and now he's doing something bigger and grander and more important to create a great future for our kids. He's translating his business and real estate knowledge into the development of space which is (in the Foundation's words) just a place.

Definitely wants to go to space. His wife says that she would like to send him to the moon (bang, zoom...). No rimshot.

Thanking the Russians for how they accommodated them, and the extra effort they went to. Also thanking his company's staff. A small organization that makes up for it with incredible enthusiasm and skills. Still looking for more people in engineering, legal, accounting. Two plants, one in North Vegas, one in Houston. Also a Washington office, which is a crucial part of the activities. Technological challenges are huge, but not on the top of the list of what can hurt you. Politics is much tougher, which is what the Washington office struggles with every day.

Burt Rutan and Elon Musk are successful because they're not just good technically, but good businessmen. (Acknowledging Buzz Aldrin, who just walked into the room, calling him "my hero.") They know how to manage money, and people, and the technical aspects follow. Priority order is politics, management, and then the technical part.

Community is not very large and "we need to stick together, pull together, and make things happen." He sees himself as being part of the destination part. "We will fly your stuff." Taking emailed photos, converting to cards, and flying them in the habitats where they can float around and be viewed with a camera. Also taking golf-ball-sized objects. Inviting people to fly with them.

Evolving to the goal of a full-size module that can sustain up to six people for years at a time--LEO, deep space, and lunar and Martian surfaces. Each additional spacecraft will be increasingly complex, getting larger and testing new subsystems, while also learning how to manage communications with multiple spacecraft simultaneously. Will be flying every six months, so up to five spacecraft to track and communicate with over a two-and-a-half-year period. Building own tracking stations in Hawaii, Fairbanks, etc. Will fly a second flight later this year, also out of Russia (SS-18 Dneper--an altered ICBM). Likes the idea of swords to ploughshares.

ISS not "customer friendly," leaving rest of the world sitting on the sidelines. 350 astronauts in the world right now, but hopes to increase that by fifteen to twenty times over the next dozen years or so. Sees astronauts for other governments as a more interesting market than tourism per se.

Look at themselves as providing facilities to meet customer requirements, but not necessarily involved in what actually takes place on board (like a regional mall). Banks understand this kind of deal. A number of terrestrial and marine models for destinations that can serve as useful models. Wants to train thousands of "professional astronauts" to serve needs of big aerospace in a similar manner to which the military trains pilots and aviation professionals for that business.

First module will be 330 cubic meters (a little over half of current ISS size). Dneper can handle first two generations--Genesis and Galaxy, but generation after that will outgrow it. Estimate twenty launches in third year of operation (sixteen for people and four for cargo). Would like a crew vehicle that can handle eight people, but thinks that's driven by seat cost, and would be happy with less if it can be done for comparable seat cost. Looking to Atlas V or Falcon 9 (if Elon is of a mind to do that).

Thinks that space tourism will happen, but their focus is on the path of serving private services for exploration and cargo, following the nautical analogy. Doesn't want to depend on any one income stream, and trying to develop thorough understanding of what kinds of income streams can be derived from robotic applications. Thinks that tourism will be relatively small population for the first few years, due to high price. Professional astronaut community seems like the biggest single revenue opportunity, by pursuing countries that have previously had few opportunities. Space tourism pricing will have to be lower than "professional astronatus." Thinks that eight million per trip would have some market, but they'd make no profit at that price. They would put tourists to work, filming, helping with tasks. Want to coordinate with Space Adventures and others to put together packages.

Have "only been a spaceflight company for one week." "This is our first rodeo."

Can't believe that they're doing this, and how well it's going. Expecting Murphy to show up any minutes. Would not have been financially possible without Russian help. Don't know what future is, not taking anything for granted, looking over their shoulders, feeling "hot breath of challenge." Don't take this likely.

Expects competition, but have a lead, and hope to keep moving quickly to maintain it. Have to make quick decisions. Plenty of things to worry about, but are optimists, so they don't hesitate when decisions have to be made.

Just asked how much more time he had. "All you need, Bob." (Rick Tumlinson)

[Note: I see that Clark Lindsey has a description of yesterday's Bigelow facilities tour.]

They've taken about 500 photos of Genesis 1 up to this point in time.

They're showing a video now, mostly press clips. I'm shutting down temporarily, so I can go tour the Bigelow faclity.


I may regret this, but the tour was going to last several hours, and I didn't want to miss that much of the conference.

Clark Lindsey has a summary of Bigelow's talk.


Alan Boyle also has a Bigelow tour report.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 21, 2006 08:57 AM
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The early success of Bigelow is very encouraging. In many regards this is an even greater step than the flight of Spaceshipone. It is a sustainable development program leading directly to the creation of a space settlement market.

The flying of foreign government astronauts is also an excellent and substantial initial market that will have numerous and indirect benefits.

However I have two minor concerns as to their technical direction:

They seem to be designing for a high degree of module self sufficiency with regard to station keeping, power systems, etcetera. This is depending on the successful development of a lot of complexity in every module. Presumably in a large station consisting of many modules individual modules could be specialised and simplified significantly. Should all of these systems really be so heavily integrated into every module at such an early stage? I would be inclined to relegate these other requirements to separate modules that could be developed, launched, and added somewhat independently – plug and play. It is the inflated module part that has not been done before, as much as possible should they not be trying to limit their developmental risk to just that part?

I also note that they are hoping for an eight person delivery vehicle. To my thinking this constitutes a significant and unnecessary cost of entry barrier to would be developers of reusable space transports, which will I think likely first be prototyped in one or two person forms, (eight person space transports probably being at least second generation – coming much later) . Hence I suspect this market request tends to favour existing type capsule based systems. Why can they not let the market select optimal vehicle size for itself?

Posted by Pete Lynn at July 21, 2006 07:54 PM

eight person space transports probably being at least second generation – coming much later

So why is that? I can understand it's expensive (both in money and in weight you have to carry to orbit) to carry men versus cargo on board a launch vehicle. We're delicate lil' darlins', needing plenty of padding, strict temperature and vibration control, a cabin pressurized with dangerously explosive oxygen, windows out of which we can look to enjoy the view...

But, once you've paid the fixed costs associated with preparing a man-habitable part of your vehicle, I'd think the marginal cost of adding a few more people to its capacity would be pretty small. Stick in another chair, make the O2 tank a bit larger, and Bob's your uncle, no? Which makes an 8-man vehicle much less than four times as expensive as a 2-man vehicle.

What am I missing?

Posted by Carl Pham at July 21, 2006 11:29 PM

The Wright flier, Spirit of St Louis, X1, X15, Mercury capsule, Spaceshipone and most other such experimental vehicles besides were designed for one person not eight. Only NASA type hubris would suggest that we can develop low cost access to space without first going through this initial small scale development.

In New Zealand back in the seventies there was a period of “Think Big” projects where the government borrowed huge sums of money to pay for grandiose national infrastructural projects, it was Keynesian economics at it worst. As a result the country went to the brink of bankruptcy and the eighties saw a very harsh period of reform which people are still very bitter about, yet New Zealand so nearly became another Argentina. To me such big thinking is a bit like believing in communism – some people still just do not get why it is a fundamentally bad idea, until they do, nothing in space will change.

Posted by Pete Lynn at July 22, 2006 08:46 AM

SpaceShipOne was designed for *three* people, as per the X-Prize rules.

Posted by Stellvia at July 24, 2006 08:43 AM

Not really, it was designed to show that it could potentially carry three people, which is not the same thing as actually carrying them. That the X-Prize rules specifically allowed for this lower risk option should suggest just how significant that design distinction is.

Spaceshipone only flew with one person and would have been more specifically designed for one - at significantly lower cost, had the X-Prize rules not expressly stipulated for a larger vehicle – in surrender to the “think big” NASA inspired paradigm.

Posted by Pete Lynn at July 24, 2006 07:25 PM

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