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Bigelow expects that many companies will be happy to pony for the chance to do things in microgravity that they can't do on earth. For instance, research suggests that, because of how molecules behave in zero gravity, it might be possible to manufacture superefficient fiberoptic cable or new pharmaceuticals in orbit.
Robert also said " I strongly believe that at least some UFOs owe their beginnings to being manufactured... from materials made in a micro-gravity environment." The effects of Earth's gravity, he explained, limit us to the elements and compounds we have here: In space, we might be able to develop all kinds of new substances with unguessable properties. Working in microgravity, Biegelow concluded, is therefore essential for manufacturing interstellar craft.
Wired Magazine issue 15.11 page 204
Originally posted by DragonsDemesne
With the idea of giant watermelons, I'm not exactly sure where Bigelow is going with this, and not having seen the design, I can't really comment. However, for aerodynamical reasons, such a shape would be ridiculous in Earth atmosphere, but if built in outer space, would work just as well as any other shape, due to the lack of air resistance. The inflatable thing is a neat idea, one that I haven't seen before, and depending on the design it might allow for more economical space travel 'locally', likTe in our solar system, but no one will travel to another galaxy in anything we can even imagine today, much less build, I think.
Bigelow Aerospace used modified Russian missiles to haul two test modules into space. But the real units are bigger and will need beefier transport. So far there's no word on who will provide taxi service, but Boeing has voiced an interest, and Lockheed Martin is already working on how to get people to the station. Plus, there's SpaceX, Elon Musk's firm, which has rockers for rent.
Once in orbit, the module is deployed. As it's unfurls, three to eight solar panels flower out. Then compressed air is released from the tanks in a metal core, forcing the 16-inch-thick fabric skin to expand outward. Within minutes (test models inflated in less than half an hour) units reach full size-22 feet in diameter for the BA 330 module and 21 feet for the smaller Sundancer craft.
BA's first human-ready pod, Sundancer, will launch in 2010. A year later, a spine with docking ports will join it in orbit. This core will accommodate two BA 330 modules with 1,080 cubic feet of usable room each. Once the final unit locks into place, the complex will hold up to 15 people. Future stations will be completely customizable, and big-name clients will be invited to design their own.
Why Microgravity Research?
One of the most promising new areas for the commercialization of space is in the field of microgravity. Microgravity is the absense of gravity also known as weightlessness or zero gravity. It is most dramatically illustrated by astronauts floating around in their spacecrafts. Microgravity allows new materials to be developed which can not be made on Earth due to gravity. These new materials can be used to speed up future computers, reduce pollution, improve fiber optics, and enable medical break throughs to cure diseases.
Originally posted by Dr Love
Is "zero gravity" the same as "artificial gravity"? I'm a little confused by the term.
Originally posted by Dr Love
Bob Lazar claimed that an artificial gravity field created around an object, with the ability to amplify the gravity (inside the artificial field) in a certain direction, was the key to interstellar travel (light speed travel). This explanation always made perfect sense to me.
Originally posted by jim_w
Building stuff in zero-G would be really easy - you can move arbitrarily massive objects to any place and any angle with equal ease. A huge amount of work when building a skyscraper goes into lifting all the heavy stuff to the top of the tower, but in zero-G there's no top or bottom and no weight to anything. That sounds fun...
Gene transfer in a microgravity environment has demonstrated at least a tenfold increase in the efficiency
Research conducted on the Space Shuttle has shown that the production of antibiotics is substantially greater in microgravity than in comparable experiments on Earth.
Microgravity has been demonstrated to affect the production of essential oils in a rose resulting not in a slight shift in scent, but in an entirely new fragrance.
Research with human insulin crystals grown on several flights has revealed surprising and uniquely valuable data that can be used to develop a longer-lasting insulin formulation.
Research has been conducted on the KC-135 aircraft and will be continued on the ISS to understand how gravity and other parameters affect the composition of porous ceramics which could be used as bone replacement material.
The microgravity environment has been demonstrated effective in determining thermophysical properties data through containerless processing techniques which are not possible on Earth. The research goal is to obtain new data for use in developing advanced casting techniques and alloys for designs not presently producible and for improving yields of the casting process, where scrap rates average about 10%.