SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace form Partnership

I heard an interesting theory about why the Jetsons live in space. This theory held that the zombie apocalypse finally happened and people moved to space rather than compete with the mindless, shambling hordes. With the death of the shuttle missions, the future of humanity may depend on the commercial sector! OK, maybe not. What am I babbling about anyways?

Bigelow Aerospace (BA) has been working on a series of expandable space habitats. Rather than being the “hotels in space” they were originally touted by the media as, these inflatable space stations are meant for use by companies and nations interested in developing a space program without a multi-billion dollar investment. The company already has two prototypes in orbit that are functioning well enough that BA has moved on to the construction stage of development.

BA 330

The Bigelow Aerospace 330 inflatable space station. Courtesy of Bigelow Aerospace.

Renting a room on a commercial space station still isn’t cheap. A six-month lease for four occupants (including transportation) is listed at $275 million. That puts the cost well outside the reach of all but the wealthiest individuals, affluent companies and countries with healthy economies. BA says that microgravity research could be important for such areas as nanotechnology and medicine.

The problem is, of course, how to get people to the stations. Teaming up with SpaceX seems to be the solution (you can find an earlier post about SpaceX here). The SpaceX Dragon is currently undergoing testing and is scheduled for a test launch in the near future. Designed for commercial work, the Dragon can hold up to six passengers.

All of this could happen sooner than you might think. BA says they plan to have the habitats ready to go as early as 2014. SpaceX’s Dragon should be up and running well before then (assuming all goes well). It seems likely that by 2015 we could have space stations emblazoned with Nike logos (I’d be astonished if we don’t see this kind of sponsorship).

Below you’ll find a video about Bigelow Aerospace.

Sources: SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace

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