Upgrading the ISS

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What would it take to upgrade and expand the ISS with bigelow moduals and maybe also do a tech upgrade on the computers etc on the ISS monitors, etc.

Im interested if it would be possible to expand the station with bigelow moduals and upgrade the station.

Then if we can build a sort of space tug who's first mission is boosting the ISS to a better position so we arent spending a fortune just to keep it up there.

Then disaseembling the oldest base ISS moduals and replacing them.

Just kinda wondering. I believe the ISS and everything on it should be kept in orbit to be reused and recycled.


A few months ago NASA said that the Bigelow modules were too large to attach to the current configuration without other parts of ISS getting in the way.

Might want to check out the other ISS threads for why, or why not, to keep it.


Physically attaching Bigelowe modules to the ISS isn't really the issue. That's just adding more docking ports, and in a free-fall environment, the connections really don't need to be all that mechanically robust. You could brace things with guy-wires if you had to.

Hooking up to ISS power and life support systems could be an issue (absolute capacity available, and dynamic load management), but making the Bigelowe hardware self-sufficient can eliminate these problems by partitioning the systems. An argument could be made that a completely independent set of systems (power and life-support) provides a fail-safe backup via redundancy - lose either the ISS or the Bigelowe system, and the other hardware buys you the time to sort the problems out - fix and/or rescue.

Interference with solar panels shadowing each other is achieved by physical separation - the docking ports added don't have to be on the ends of short modules. The modules could be launched essentially empty, so they could be long payload sections of ELVs, and still be lifted to LEO. Hook 'em onto the ISS, guy-wire as needed, and plug a Bigelowe in.

Where adding to the ISS gets into trouble is center of mass and thrust management. The ISS needs a periodic boost to maintain its (fairly low) orbit - there is still some atmospheric drag even at the ISS altitude. It isn't simply a case of tacking a rocket onto any convenient place and fire it up. If the thrust axis is not precisely through the ISS center of mass, you may add some velocity to the ISS, but much more likely, you'll just cause the ISS to spin around its center of mass instead. An off-axis force is not a good thing, and for something as large and frail as the ISS, orbital management is not a trivial task.

Use of a continual gentle thrust, such as an argon or xenon ion engine minimizes the mechanical stresses on the ISS, a very desireable thing as the span of the ISS increases, but thrust is thrust - a push off-axis, hard or soft, is cause for a spin. So, yes, we could (I think should) add to the ISS (Bigelowe balloons or whatever else gets up there), BUT it has to be done in a planned fashion.
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