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Monday, October 08, 2012

Bigelow Aerospace to Expand Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace in negotiations with NASA to add ISS module
Las Vegas hotelier Robert Bigelow plans to launch a first-of-its-kind inflatable space station in a bid to join billionaire Elon Musk as a pioneer in the commercial space market, reported Bloomberg with this video report.

Bigelow Aerospace LLC may get a boost toward that goal by landing its first award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an agreement to build a module for the International Space Station. The value of the contract, which may come this year, is still being negotiated, NASA says. It is called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module.

Like Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, Bigelow wants to provide cheaper, privately developed alternatives to government space systems. SpaceX in May became the first to dock a private cargo ship at the station. Closely held Bigelow plans to actually build stations -- out of the same Kevlar-like fabric used in spacesuits.

“What SpaceX is doing in transportation, we’re going to do for destination,” said Michael Gold, director of Washington operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. The company’s inflatable stations may be used as research laboratories orbiting Earth or to establish a permanent presence on the moon or Mars, Gold said in an interview with Bloomberg.
A Bigelow  inflatable module is likely post-2013, noted SpaceflightNow in 2011
Bigelow Aerospace and NASA plan to complete negotiations for the inflatable module before the end of the year, Jason Crusan, director of the agency’s advanced exploration systems division, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg's Brendan McGarry. The module is expected to launch in fiscal 2014 or 2015, he said. Astronauts would use the space station’s robotic arm to attach the inflatable section.

Robert T. Bigelow explained his goals to place inflatable space vehicles in an interview with a Las Vegas television station nearly two-years ago.

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