Whether it’s for scientific discovery or recreation, a whole lot of folks have their eyes on the stars — and Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace and its inflatable space habitats is here to help.
This week, Bigelow announced the creation of a new spinoff company called Bigelow Space Operations that will manage and operate space stations built and developed by its parent company. What does that mean? Simply put, the company is like totally serious about ushering in a world of commercial space living, dude.
One Bigelow habitat, called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), is already connected to the International Space Station (ISS). BEAM demonstrated that the company’s technology not only works in theory but in practice, too. The company next plans to launch additional space stations called B330s, boasting close to 12,000 cubic feet of space when expanded, making them around one-third the size of the ISS. These are planned to launch on two spacecraft in 2021.
“With the two launches of B330-1 and B330-2 expected in 2021, the time is now in 2018 to begin BSO activity. These single structures that house humans on a permanent basis will be the largest, most complex structures ever known as stations for human use in space,” the company said in a press release announcing the new company.
After that, Bigelow Aerospace has announced that it plans to manufacture a single space station, launched on a single rocket, containing more than 2.4 times the pressurized volume of the entire ISS.
In all, it’s an enormous undertaking — and something the company is hoping to bank on commercial interest to help support. B330s, Bigelow claims, offer an orbiting space for scientific research that’s far cheaper than the ISS. It’s an intriguing proposition and one which might not just mean another potential entry point for scientific research, but also the possibility of selling space-bound habitats for low-orbit hotels or other forms of space tourism. Given that Bigelow Aerospace was founded by hotelier Robert Bigelow, who owns the Budget Suites of America chain, that certainly would appear to be a mission well in the company’s wheelhouse.
The company has also said it’s planning to build a new manufacturing facility, which may be located in Florida or Alabama. Should plans progress as hoped, an additional 400 to 500 employees may have to be recruited to provide support to the various inflatable space stations that will soon be in our orbit.
If you ever dreamed of having your own personal space station, or just a part of one, it may be time to get saving! (There’s no word on the pricing just yet, though.)
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