Human spaceflight a possibility for Wallops Island

Posted at 7:09 PM, Feb 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-19 19:09:23-05

Hampton Roads, Va. - Wallops Island is known for its rocket launches from our Eastern Shore.  But one company is pushing hard to have Wallops the site for sending people to outer space.

"Our ultimate goal is to head to the moon. We think that the moon is the next logical step in humanity's push toward the stars," said Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace.

Bigelow Aerospace, a private Nevada-based company, wants to bring human spaceflight to Virginia in the near future.

"Wallops is in what I like to call the 'Goldilocks' zone of launch sites. That, when a launch site has too much traffic, like Kennedy at Cape Canaveral today, commercial activities can get bumped or NASA launches or military launches. And time is money, particularly in the commercial space world," said Gold.

One of the ways Bigelow hopes to bring people to space is through its inflatable habitats or rooms where people can work and live.  In fact, the company has a contract with NASA to install its BEAM, or Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, to the International Space Station next year. It would be launched from Florida though.

"At some point next year, an actual astronaut will walk inside an expandable habitat for the first time. So both the company and the technology are relatively mature, which is why you see the next logical step is human spaceflight," said Gold.

Two of the modules the company has launched and tested in the past, the Genesis I and II, are about the same length as your typical small to midsize SUV. But the company is developing a much larger module that could hold six people in outer space.  That module is called the BA 300.

One of the biggest goals for the company is to develop these habitats on the moon and eventually send people there, too, right from Wallops Island.

"The implications for the Eastern Shore would be dramatic. I mean, you talk about job creation. When you hear a rocket go off, I mean that's the sound of a lot of jobs behind it.  And it would transform the Eastern Shore into a hub of high-paying, high-quality employment as well as technological innovation," said Gold.

Bigelow Aerospace hopes to make a proposal to NASA this year for human spaceflight from Wallops Island.