ISS Expansion Could Include Bigelow Inflatable Module

International Space Station

Although construction of the International Space Station has been deemed essentially complete, officials at NASA and Roscosmos are planning further expansion of the orbital facility. NASA managers are considering attaching a Bigelow Aerospace module to ISS, while Roscosmos will add additional modules next year. reports on a meeting last week concerning the Bigelow proposal:

International Space Station Program (ISSP) managers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston held a two-day meeting this week to discuss the prospect of adding a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable module to the ISS. The Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) ran on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th January.

The purpose of the ISS inflatable module would be a simple, limited capability stowage volume, similar in purpose to the currently on-orbit Japanese Logistics Platform (JLP), which serves as a stowage module for scientific equipment from the Japanese Pressurised Module (JPM) laboratory. The module would be certified to remain on-orbit for two years.

The module would be a collaboration between NASA and Bigelow Aerospace, with NASA HQ providing funding, the ISS National Laboratory Program providing project management, and NASA providing all Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), which includes the Passive Common Berthing Mechanism (PCBM), Flight Releasable Grapple Fixture (FRGF), smoke detector, fan, and emergency lights.

Bigelow would provide the inflatable and inner core structure of the module, and perform all required flight analysis.

Meanwhile, work continues in Russia on the expansion of its section of the station. Roscosmos reports:

Draft design of a new docking compartment for the International Space Station has been approved by Rocket Space Corporation Energia’s Scientific Board.

The module for the ISS Russian segment is intended to provide attachment of the two scientific power modules, as well as additional docking ports for Soyuzes and Progresses. The module is to be attached to Multi-Purpose Module; both are expected to arrive at the ISS in 2012.

The docking compartment weights 4 t, with internal volume of 14 cub m.

RSC-E Board chaired by First Deputy General Designer Victor Legostayev also approved draft design of  module vehicle Progress M-UM to be used to deliver the docking compartment to the station, Progress M-UM upper composite, and Soyuz modification to respect Progress M-UM mission.