January 11, 2011

US Space Firm Teaming Up With UK Astronomy Technology Centre

U.S.-based Bigelow Aerospace is looking to the U.K.'s Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) to help send spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.

Bigelow's space telescope concepts include operating beyond the Moon to over 600,000 miles away, where spacecrafts can hold station without expending too much fuel.

The company has already launched two technology demonstrator modules, Genesis I and Genesis II.

"The very purpose of expandable habitats was initially to go beyond [low Earth orbit], so they are ideal for such applications," Bigelow's Washington DC operations and business growth director Michael Gold told BBC News.

"Certainly there is a wide variety of activities that could be conducted at the Lagrange points, whether it's serving as a hub to support Lunar or Martian exploration, or supporting next-generation astronomy missions."

Because the space telescope spacecraft's design could be based on the station modules, both could use the same solar panels from Scotland.

This is because following a February meeting in Edinburgh between ATC, Scottish space companies and Bigelow, Glaswegian solar panels specialists Clyde Space has become a bidder for station module contracts.

After that meeting, ATC signed a memorandum of understanding with Bigelow.  ATC also signed a non-disclosure agreement to conduct discussions about possible projects.

The space station could be a test bed for a range of technologies the ATC would use for international government funded space science.


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