NASA is shifting its attention to the moon, and so are Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance: Today the two companies said they’d work together to put an outpost in orbit around the moon by as soon as 2022.
The plan builds on the companies’ earlier partnership to send one of Bigelow’s B330 expandable space modules into Earth orbit.
Now the idea is to launch a B330 into low Earth orbit on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle, get it outfitted as a platform for lunar-orbit operations and send up 70 tons of propellant on two Vulcans. Then ULA’s Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage would fuel up, attach itself to the B330 and push onward to the moon.
Billionaire Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said the lunar station could play a role in NASA’s plans to establish a moon base and move on to Mars.