Bigelow Aerospace has created a new commercial space company called Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), which will act as sales, operations and customer service provider for the inflatable space stations that Bigelow Aerospace is developing. The incipient company has few employees at this time, but general manager Robert Bigelow expects BSO to employ up to 500 people when its first stations are launched in 2021.
The International Space Station (ISS) may be closing, but when it finally ceases Operations sometime between 2025 and 2028, low Earth orbit can be established for a demographic boom. For some years, Bigelow Aerospace has not hidden its ambitions to develop modules of inflatable and polyvalent habitats that could one day outshine the current orbital laboratory.
Currently, Bigelow is testing an experimental inflatable module in the ISS and one day foresees bigger brothers of the test unit that is used permanently for laboratories, zero-gravity factories and even hotels for the adventurous and well-off. However, in a press conference call, Biglow said his company had no interest in transitioning from a laboratory to a commercial company, so BSO will be launched to operate the modules being built by sister company Bigelow Aerospace.
According to Bigelow, these stations will be the largest and most complex structures built for the human habitation in space, and the first, B330-1 and B330-2, will be launched in 2021. These will be linked together ] to form a single space complex, but that is only an intermediate step since BSO is programmed to one day market and manage the Olympus – a monster of a station 2.4 times the volume of the ISS that will require a rocket capable of lifting 80 tons of payload to take it to orbit.
As part of this plan, BSO will open a new manufacturing facility in Florida, Alabama or some other location that has not yet been determined. Meanwhile, the company will evaluate the global, national and corporate commercial space market for in-orbit stations.
"We are going to spend millions of dollars this year to delve into a conclusion about what the global space market is going to look like," says CEO Robert Bigelow. "When we look at what the commercial image is, in terms of the use of space by humans today, it is very different from what it was 10 years ago."
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