Manned launches using an upgraded Lockheed Martin Atlas V could be the outcome of a Bigelow Aerospace/Lockheed study of the booster’s potential for commercial human spaceflight.

The two companies are to explore the technical requirements for man-rating the launcher for commercial services to orbital complexes.

Future Atlas rockets could demonstrate human-qualified sub-system upgrades on commercial or government unmanned missions prior to flying passengers.

On 12 July, Bigelow Aerospace launched its sub-scale prototype inflatable space complex, Genesis I, on a Russian Dnepr rocket. By 2010, Bigelow aims to place in orbit a full-scale inflatable complex that could be inhabited.

“A potential passenger capsule for Bigelow would likely be launched aboard the Atlas V 401 configuration,” says Bigelow. The configuration is an Atlas V with its RD-180 engine-powered common core, a Centaur upper stage with one engine, no solid rocket boosters and a 4m (13.1ft)-diameter fairing.

Source: Flight International