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Aaron Oesterle

Dan, I've had similiar thoughts about the issue of water landing. My personal suspicion is that, while its not a deal breaker (because I didn't get that impression), they really want to avoid those. Part of that though raises the question - just how big does the body of water have to be when landing? Do they need the margin of error that the ocean provides? Or can they get by with smaller, and if so, how much smaller? Can something the size of the Great Lakes work? What about something the size of the Finger lakes? What about Houghton Lake, in Michigan (It's about 7.5 miles by 4.5 miles)? If you could put down in something like the Finger Lakes, or Houghton lake, my suspicion is that Bigelow would have much less to complain about (you'd just need a glorified tugboat, and a crane).

But can you put down in a lake that size, and maintain acceptable safety margins - I haven't heard anyone give a good answer. But I can see how/why he'd like to avoid a water landing, IF it has to be in an ocean.


I think you are wrong about there being a market for sovereign clients on BA modules:

There is a lot of political significance to having a national astronaut visit, cooperate with and use a national facility like ISS or Mir. There is no political significance and worse, negative prestige, to sending a national astronaut to a commercial facility rented from a puny American company. I doubt there will be many real sovereign clients the way people are thinking about them. I suspect there will be some private space tourism clients masquerading as sovereign clients to get out of paying taxes, as was the case with Shuttleworth.

Robert Horning

I disagree that the sovereign nations as a market is irrelevant, but it is a niche market only so far that Bigelow and other companies could "bootstrap" nations that may want to get into the game, such as an Israeli orbiting lab. Clearly Israel has the technical capabilities of doing something like this on their own, but sticking with commercial production models could significantly reduce costs for doing this just as commercial production of nuclear power plants in France has significantly reduced the cost of nuclear electricity generation.

On the other hand, the main reason for building an indigenous spaceflight program is a way to announce to the world that your country has the capability of dropping a bomb, especially a nuke, anywhere in the world that they care to put it.

This was something not lost to the U.S. military when Sputnik I was launched, and it drove the point home when (perhaps coincidentally) it crashed into the middle of Wisconsin after re-entry. The Apollo program in a certain context could be viewed that the USA could put into orbit (and de-orbit at will) nearly anything of any size that you cared to put into space. The Space Shuttle program was in some ways a demonstrations we could also snatch anything that is in orbit and bring it back to the Earth whenever the USA wanted to do that task.

As far as Bigelow Aerospace getting respect in terms of being a business, I think the size of Budget Motels and the construction companies of Robert Bigelow would demonstrate economic viability to the endeavor that would be sufficient to convince most people to consider this approach in term of getting into space. This is not the dreamers of the 1980s who wrote a bunch of stuff in SF magazines only to discover that it took real money in order to get into space. And even that wasn't sufficient to do something like buy your own private Space Shuttle.

There will be many people, including governments, that will have a much easier time dealing with Bigelow Aerospace precisely because it is an independent company and not an agency of the U.S. government, subject to approval from Congress on what bolts to buy from what manufacturing company or subject to 4-year-cycles due to changes in presidental administration. Many individuals have been burned by things like the "Get away special" program and attempts to commercialize the space on the Space Shuttle, not to mention governments that have been shut out of shuttle flights due to the Challenger and Columbia mishaps. I don't see Bigelow Aerospace putting up with a 3-5 year launch delay because of a similar kind of mishap.


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