The rise of commercial space flight companies such as SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace ignited the era of space tourism as the ultra-rich managed to buy a ticket for a rocket ride into space. Of course, there is a huge limit for tourism if there is not a place to stay in the intended destination, but that is about to change in space. Bigelow has announced plans to build two space stations that will float in low Earth orbit. The company has big plans for these space stations and ideas about who will pay to use them. Basically, the stations will be like the space hotels in orbit around the space where astronauts and possibly even tourists could stay one day.
In a press release this week, Bigelow Aerospace announced that it has created a spin-off company called Bigelow Space Operations, which will operate and manage two space stations that will serve as hotels. The company expects to launch both hotels in 2021, and is beginning to work to build them this year. Bigelow describes the two space stations as "the largest and most complex structures ever known as stations for human use in space."
The two stations are currently called B330 -1 and B330-2, and they are not the only two that Bigelow Space Operations plans to build. The two space stations are inflatable and will provide shelter for up to six people in low Earth orbit with approximately 12,000 cubic feet of living space.
The company told The Verge that it hopes to market its space stations to the space agencies of the world. , like NASA, and business and scientific research organizations. BSO intends to sell or lease space for less than it costs to declare on the International Space Station, essentially providing space hotels for any team that wishes to live and work in space. The company also believes that other nations may be interested in starting their own space programs, buying time to orbit the Earth on their space stations.
Bigelow Aerospace also plans to build a space station that will launch a massive rocket that will carry more than 2.4 times the amount of pressurized volume as the current International Space Station. The company plans to establish a manufacturing facility for its space stations in Alabama, Florida or elsewhere.
The press release issued by Bigelow this week was a bit lacking in details, but the company did provide more information to The Verge. Before the company moves forward with its plan, it will begin conducting research to create an image of the commercial space market. President Robert Bigelow told the technology site that they will spend "million dollar" meetings with representatives of companies and space agencies to get a more solid picture of the types of customers who might want to reserve some time in their space hotels.
He also noted that they have been open about their intention to make a profit in space tourism. Also, if they can not find anyone to stay in their space hotels, then they might decide not to launch them. Bigelow explained that China is working on its own space station for its launch sometime in the 2020s and that the country is "offering very attractive and characteristic terms and conditions" that will make it difficult to compete with it.
Bigelow has already made a name for himself in the space business. Build inflatable space habitats that are released as tight modules. Once delivered safely into orbit, the modules are inflated, providing space for astronauts to live and work. One of the company's modules, called the Bigelow expandable activity module (BEAM), has been connected to the ISS for more than a year. NASA even extended its contract to BEAM last year, which provides a proof of concept of what the commercial space company intends to do.
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