Among the dynamic and noteworthy speakers during Day 3 of the ISSR&D Conference, Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace delivered the morning keynote address.
During his remarks, Bigelow shared his thoughts on the International Space Station (ISS) transitioning plan, noting that the process has already begun with the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. Earlier this year, Bigelow took part in a senate hearing on commercial space launch competitiveness, testifying on behalf of lunar exploration and space station development.
Bigelow commented on the value the ISS National Lab brings to space research, saying that he hopes transition plans include a facility or platform dedicated to the ISS National Lab and ISS U.S. National Laboratory research, “because [the ISS National Lab] serves a very, very good incubating role for small companies.”
A contractor by trade, Bigelow emphasized the benefits of lunar exploration and described Bigelow Aerospace’s current work on the B330, a stand-alone space station. There are two B330 stations under construction and scheduled for completion before the end of 2020, with more to come. Each B330 will have the ability to dock at the ISS, serve as a self-sufficient autonomous platform in and outside of low Earth orbit, and have the potential to function as a lunar depot.
Self-identified as a “lunar guy,” Bigelow looks to China’s advances with respect to their ambitious Lunar Exploration Program and asks, “What are we doing?” Ideally, Bigelow would like to see the U.S. embrace an attitude similar to China’s in terms of embarking on human lunar missions, prioritizing cargo launches to and from the moon, and embracing international collaboration during these efforts.
For those interested in learning more about the article Bigelow was referencing during his keynote on China’s advances in lunar exploration, it originally appeared in the June 19, 2017 issue of Space News, available online.