In this, the third of four aerospace-based S.T.E.M. project, students will use the Bigelow Aerospace BA 330 and BA 2100 space station pressurized modules to launch and assemble a space station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Students will calculate the total pressurized volume, the total weight, the crew size, and the total cost of launching into space and setting up their space station.

Time Frame
About 6 weeks

Mathematics Used
Basic Math

Material List
Connection to the Internet

Total Cost
$0.00 (USD)

Science Topics
Physics, Aerospace

11th and 12th

Essential Questions
  • Who are the many space station pioneers?
  • What is a space station?
  • Where can a Bigelow space station be spotted in the night sky?
  • When will the first commercial Bigelow space station be flown?
  • Why do people want to space stations in orbit
  • How many people can live on a space station?
  • Wait. I have to do science and technology and engineering and mathematics, all at the same time? Woah.

Activating Previous Learning
Basic Mathematics
Scientific Calculator


Lesson Overview
Note: This website incorporates spreadsheets and slide-show presentations that are provided to teachers for use in the classroom.
  • Students first learn the basics of space station design using pencil, paper, and scientific calculator.
  • Students then use what they have learned to create an Aerospace Mission Design App (AMDA), designed according to the Engineering Design Process, that will be used for real-world spacecraft. They will use spreadsheet software to create the app.

Learning Objectives
  • Interpret data related to aerospace, and rocketry.
  • Select an optimum design from many design options to solve technological problems.
  • Explain the principles of an launching a payload into space in mathematical and physical terms.
  • Integrate mathematics and aerospace in the engineering design process.
  • Analyze the physical principles of a an launching a payload into space, and relate these to a space mission design.
  • Use mathematics to calculate the cargo capacity of the Skylon space plane.
  • Use the Engineering Design Process to construct a real-world space mission app that is constrained by certain aerospace factors.
  • Define constraints to the real-world model.
  • Explain how solutions to the problem address the specific requirement.
  • Explain the relationships of the principles of aerospace to the concept of payload and orbital inclination of the Skylon.
  • Demonstrate how their space mission design app addresses the requirements of payload and orbital inclination of the Skylon.

Science As Inquiry
  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct scientific investigations.
  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
  • Communicate and defend a scientific argument.
Physical Science
  • Use mathematics and logic to explain scientific principles.
  • Look up and use aeronautical constants.
Science and Technology
  • Identify a problem or design an opportunity.
  • Propose designs and choose between alternative solutions.
  • Implement a proposed solution.
  • Evaluate a solution and its consequences.
  • Communicate the problem, process, and solution.

Visual Learning
Here is a short (3 min) video of a Bigelow Aerospace space station. The video shows the space station being assembled and the crew moving in.

Assembling a Bigelow Space Station (0:02:40)

Bigelow has built and placed into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) two flight test articles called Genesis I and Genesis II. They are still in orbit, and you can track them in real-time at the following links:

(NORAD Tracking ID Number: 29252)

(NORAD Tracking ID Number: 31789)

Bigelow Aerospace currently has a contract with NASA to flight test an inflatable module of the International Space Station (ISS).


  • None
  • Total Number of BA 2100 Modules
  • Total Number of BA 330 Modules
  • Total Number of PB/DN Modules
  • Total Number of BA 2100 Stacks
  • Total Number of BA 330 Stacks
  • Total Number of PB/DN Stacks
  • Total Number of SpaceX Falcon Heavy Expendable Launch Vehicles
  • Total Number of NASA SLS Block I Expendable Launch Vehicles
  • Total Weight of the assembled space station
  • Total Crew Size
  • Total Cost of the assembled space station

  • BA-330 Module: A Bigelow space station module that has a pressurized volume of 330 cubic meters, weighs 25 mT, and can hold 6 crew
  • BA-300 Stack: Two BA-300s attached to a Falcon Heavy that is on the Launch Pad
  • BA-2100 Module: A Bigelow space station module that has a pressurized volume of 2,100 cubic meters, weighs 100 mT, and can hold 16 crew
  • BA-2100 Stack: A BA-2100 attached to a SLS-I that is on the Launch Pad
  • Crew Capsule: A spacecraft, such as the Boeing CST-100, that is used to ferry crew to and from a space station
  • Crew Size: The number of people on board a space station
  • Crew Volume: The total pressurized volume for each crew member
  • Docking Node (DN): A module that allows Crew Capsules and Bigelow modules to be attached together
  • Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV): A vehicle that carries it's payload into space, and is then thrown away, never to be used again
  • Falcon Heavy: An expendable vertical launch vehicle vehicle that can lift 53 mT into orbit
  • International Space Station (ISS.): The space station that is currently orbiting the earth
  • Launch Pad: Where a rocket takes off from
  • Low Earth Orbit: A body circling the Earth at a minimum orbital altitude of 120 km
  • Payload Shroud: The covering that protects the cargo from the atmosphere on its way into space
  • PB/DN: Combination of a Propulsion Bus attached to a Docking Node, weighs 17 mT
  • PB/DN Stack: Three PB/DNs attached to a Falcon Heavy that is on the Launch Pad
  • Pressurized Volume: The volume of sea-level pressure air that is in a Bigelow module
  • Propulsion Bus (PB): The unit used to reboost the space station due to orbital decay
  • Space Launch System Block IA (SLS=IA): An expendable vertical launch vehicle that can lift 105 mT into orbit
  • Space Station: A place where scientists and engineers can gather to explore the many wonders of space

Students will be required to design and construct (on paper, so to speak) a real-world space station based on the Bigelow Aerospace design. The Bigelow space station modules will be launched aboard either the SpaceX Falcon Heavy or NASA's SLS Block IA, depending on which module will fly.

Based on the type and number of modules that will make up the space station design, students will construct their own unique space station, calculating the volume, weight, and total cost of their creation.

For example, the proposed Bigelow Hercules Resupply Depot has 3 PB/DNs (Propulsion Bus/Docking Node), 6 BA-330s and 3 BA-2100s. We will not include the crew capsule in our calculations.

A Bigelow Space Station that can be in orbit tomorrow...

Another look at the graphic above:

Bigelow Space Station Hercules as view from above
It is easy to add up the pressurized volume, the total weight, the crew size , and the total cost.

As of this writing, no ELV exists that can carry a BA-2100 into LEO. However, NASA's SLS Block I-A ELV will have the capability sometime in the near future. So we will use it in this project. This ELV can carry 105 mT  to LEO for about $750M (USD). Since the BA-2100 weighs in at 100 mT, it will be the only thing launched by the ELV.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy ELV is capable of launching 53 mT to LEO for about $150M (USD). Since the BA-300 weighs in at 25 mT, this ELV can place two (2) modules into orbit, well within its launch capability.

There is another launch configuration that the Falcon Heavy could have, assuming that it would fit in a Payload Shroud. Since each PB/DN weighs in at 17 mT, this ELV can place three (3) PB/DNs into orbit, well within its launch capability.


Hercules Space Station
  • (3) BA-2100 Modules
  • (6) BA-330 Modules
  • (3) PB/DNs
Hercules Space Station Weight
  • Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 100 mT = 300 mT
  • Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 25 mT = 150 mT
  • Three (3) PB/DNs = 3 * 17 mT = 51 mT
Therefore, the space station weighs 501 mT.

Hercules Space Station Crew Size
  • Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 16 Crew = 48 Crew
  • Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 6 Crew = 36 Crew
Therefore, the space station has a crew of 84.

Hercules Space Station Pressurized Volume
  • Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * 2100 m^3 = 6,300 m^3
  • Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * 330 m^3 = 1,980 m^3
Therefore, the space station has a pressurized volume of 8,280 m^3.

This also comes out to 99 m^3 per crew member.

Hercules Space Station Launching
  • Three (3) BA-2100s @ 1 SLS-IA per BA-2100 = 3 BA-2100 Stacks
  • Six (6) BA-330s @ 1 Falcon Heavy per two (2) BA-330s = 3 BA-330 Stacks
  • Three (3) PB/DNs @ 1 Falcon Heavy per three (3) PB/DNs = 1 PB/DN Stack
Hercules Space Station Cost
  • Three (3) BA-2100s = 3 * $500,000,000 = $1,500,000,000
  • Six (6) BA-330s = 6 * $125,000,000 = $750,000,000
  • Three (3) PB/DNs = 3 * $75,000,000 = $225,000,000
  • Three (3) SLS-IA ELVs = 3 * $750,000,000 = $2,250,000,000
  • Four (4) Falcon Heavy ELVs = 4 * $150,000,000 = $600,000,000
Therefore, the space station has a total cost of $5,325,000,000 (USD).

The app can now be constructed and the numbers entered.


The Space Mission App
The NMSTARG/Google S.T.E.M. Space Station app is broken into three parts:
  1. Input/Output
  2. Constants
  3. Calculations


Teacher Lesson Plan
Use the slide-show presentation below to give a lesson about space station assembly and calculating the total volume, weight, crew size, and cost of the space station.

In this lesson, students will identify the various aspects of a space station diagram matching them with the terms and definitions.

Students then practice the calculations using pencil, paper, and scientific calculator.

Students then learn about the Engineering Design Process, and begin the process of laying the groundwork for the app built with a spreadsheet. Sample Open Source computer code is provided to aid students with their spreadsheet formulas.


Some screenshots of the Teacher Presentation:


The slides will guide the students as they run through the lesson powered by E^8:
  1. Engage
    • Lesson Objectives
    • Lesson Goals
    • Lesson Organization
  2. Explore
    • Space Station Components
    • Additional Terms and Definitions
  3. Explain
    • The Habitable Volume of a Space Station
    • The Total Space Station Crew Size
    • The Habitable Volume of the Space Station per Crew
  4. Elaborate
    • Other Space Station Examples
  5. Exercise
    • Space Station Parameters
    • Space Station Design Scenario 1
    • Space Station Design Scenario 2
  6. Engineer
    • The Engineering Design Process
    • AMDC Space Station Plan
    • Designing a Prototype
    • AMDC Software
  7. Express
    • Displaying the AMDC
    • Progress Report
  8. Evaluate
    • Post Engineering Assessment
This lesson can be delivered in one or two class periods, with students working on the project after school. It is recommended that a few minutes of a few class periods be set aside for student help.

The Student Workbook (below) accompanies the Teacher Lesson Plan.



Space Station Designs
The input values of the app can be varied to create different space station design scenarios. These scenarios will add a sense of realism to the student project. Students will be placed into groups and asked to determine the total weight, total cost, total crew, total habitable volume, and the volume per crew:


Encourage students to design their own scenarios by using different input values. This project is very flexible in that regard.


Students will be asked to present their findings to the rest of the class. Parents are, of course, encouraged to attend (it is suggested that a pot luck would make things more festive).

Each presentation will have slides that introduces the group, describes the spaceflight, and displays the calculations. A short biography of Sir Richard Branson.

Students that know how to use presentation software should be encouraged to create their own presentations (remember, Google Apps are free!)


Students will also create a website and embed their slide presentation and their S.T.E.M. app in a webpage. Their journal will be kept on the webpage as well. If the class presentation is recorded to video, it can be uploaded to YouTube, then embedded in the webpage.

Therefore, each webpage (one for each project) should have the following items:
  1. Embedded Slide Presentation
  2. Embedded view of S.T.E.M. app
  3. Link to S.T.E.M. app
  4. Link to working prototype of S.T.E.M. app
  5. Journal Entries
  6. (optional) Embedded Youtube video of the presentation

This is not a scoring rubric; rather it is a guide of what is expected for the project.

The presentation should take between 5 and 10 minutes, unless there are a lot of questions from the audience. For a class with 6 groups, this comes out to between 30 and 60 minutes.

Students should be encouraged to dress professionally, and to practice their presentations beforehand.

Scoring and grading these projects is left up to the professionalism of the teacher.


The basic mathematics used in this project should be easy enough for the average high school Algebra 2 student. The teacher may need to guide students through the setup of the equations and the calculations. As the quarter progress, the concepts and the mathematics will become more challenging.

Using technology to do a high school math project should be easy and fun.

But above all, it should be free.

Both the spreadsheet and the presentation were built using Google Docs, a free application when you sign up for gmail through Google. Therefore, any student with an Internet access can use these tools for free, whether at the school, or at the library, or at the coffee shop, or at home, etc.

Students that do well on this project will learn many important skills that will help to succeed in whatever field they desire to choose.