NASA stated on Jan. 18 that ATA Engineering of San Diego, California, had been awarded a $250,000 contract to provide engineering support services for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an inflatable module added to the station in 2016. Bigelow Aerospace designed and built the module, and it was supported by the company until December.
NASA said on Dec. 10 that it intends to award a sole-source contract for those engineering services to ATA Engineering. Given its position as a subcontractor to Bigelow in the creation of BEAM and later support of the module’s operations, including engineering evaluations that proved the module’s life could be extended to as late as 2032, the agency stated that company was the only one qualified to provide that support.
Bigelow “transferred title and ownership of the BEAM to NASA Johnson Space Center” in December, according to the prior notification, after its engineering contract expired. The transfer of ownership was one of the stipulations of the sustaining engineering contract NASA gave Bigelow in 2017, according to NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier at the time. There was no exchange of funds or other considerations between NASA and Bigelow.
Bigelow Aerospace was a pioneer in the development of inflatable module technology and planned to utilise it for a series of space stations. It was formed more than 20 years ago. In addition to BEAM, the business released two prototype inflatable modules in 2006 and 2007, dubbed Genesis 1 and 2. It had been working on a considerably larger module known as B330, which when completely expanded had a volume of 330 cubic metres.
Bigelow, on the other hand, declined to participate in a NASA competition to put a commercial module on the ISS, claiming that the agency’s money was insufficient to complete its business case. In January 2020, NASA selected Axiom Space to create a commercial module that might be deployed on the station as early as 2024.
Bigelow Aerospace laid off their entire workforce in March 2020, blaming state government limitations established in the early weeks of the epidemic that forced the closure of non-essential enterprises. Since then, the corporation has made no public statements about its future plans. It was not one of the “interested parties” who attended meetings for NASA’s Private Low Earth Orbit Destinations programme last year, which aims to assist the creation of commercial space stations, and it was not one of the three teams that got NASA awards in December.
For the International Space Station, an inflatable “entertainment” module has been proposed.
In the future, BEAM may not be the sole inflatable module on the ISS. Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE), a British firm, said Jan. 20 that it is collaborating with Axiom Space to add an inflatable module to the station’s commercial sector.
When completely grown, the SEE-1 module will be a spherical module six metres across, connecting to a docking port on the station’s first commercial module, the Axiom. SEE stated that the module would be operational in December 2024, which would coincide with the station’s addition of the Axiom module.
SEE intends to use the module as a venue for music, cinema, and sporting events. “With Axiom Space building this cutting-edge, revolutionary facility, SEE-1 will provide not only the first, but also the highest quality space structure enabling the expansion of the two trillion-dollar global entertainment industry into low Earth orbit,” said SEE co-founders Dmitry and Elena Lesnevsky in a statement.
In a statement, Michael Suffredini, president and chief executive of Axiom Space, said, “Adding a dedicated entertainment venue to Axiom Station’s commercial capabilities in the form of SEE-1 will expand the station’s utility as a platform for a global user base and highlight the range of opportunities the new space economy offers.” SEE’s module will be built by Axiom.
SEE offered scant specifics about their plans for the module’s development or their ability to fund it. The corporation claimed numerous former media executives as consultants and advisers in its statement, but did not name them. It also stated that it is working on a fundraising round with GH Partners, a New York-based investment firm, but did not specify how much money it was raising or how much SEE-1 development will cost.
According to public records, SEE was founded in the United Kingdom in August 2020 as “Space Fighting League” and changed its name to Space Entertainment Enterprise last year. The company’s sole directors are Dmitry and Elena Lesnevsky, who have not provided any financial information.
Dmitry and Elena Lesnevsky “are developing the first ever Hollywood motion picture filmed in outer space,” according to the SEE announcement, which linked to a page on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website titled “Untitled Tom Cruise/SpaceX Project.” The Lesnevskys, along with actor Tom Cruise and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, are listed as producers on that page.
The Lesnevskys’ involvement in the initiative is unclear, as is why and how they are participating. According to Dmitry Lesnevsky’s IMDb biography, his most recent film was Turnaround, an eight-minute film published in 2016 that cost roughly £20,000 ($27,000). Elena Lesnevsky is not listed as a producer on any of the films that have been released thus far.
Cruise, one of the most well-known actors in the world, has long been linked to filming a feature film on the International Space Station, and in 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that the agency was in talks with Cruise about filming a film on the station. Since then, there has been little public progress on any attempt to do so.
Even if the producers acquire finance and other clearances, the movie is unlikely to be shot before 2023. Axiom Space’s Ax-1, the first NASA-backed private astronaut mission to the ISS, will now launch on March 31 following a one-month delay announced on Jan. 18 to “allow for additional ship preparations and space station traffic.” None of the four members on the mission have stated that they intend to make a film.
The whole crew for Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission, Ax-2, has yet to be revealed. The director of NASA Headquarters’ commercial space division, Phil McAlister, informed an advisory committee on Jan. 19 that Ax-2 will not fly until early 2023.