Space

Bigelow Aerospace spinoff company to oversee private space station operations

Bigelow Aerospace spinoff comp...
Artist's concept of the Bigelow Space Complex
Artist's concept of the Bigelow Space Complex
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Artist's concept of the Bigelow Space Complex
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Artist's concept of the Bigelow Space Complex
Diagram of the Bigelow space station
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Diagram of the Bigelow space station

Bigelow Aerospace has spun off a new commercial space company called Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), which will act as the sales, operations, and customer service provider for the inflatable space stations that Bigelow Aerospace is developing. The fledgling company has few employees at the moment, but CEO 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 winding down, but when it finally ceases operations sometime between 2025 and 2028, low Earth orbit may be set for a population boom. For some years now, Bigelow Aerospace has made no secret about its ambitions to develop inflatable, multipurpose habitat modules that could one day dwarf today's orbital laboratory.

Currently, Bigelow is testing an experimental inflatable module on the ISS and it one day envisions larger siblings of the test unit being used on a permanent basis for laboratories, zero-gravity factories, and even hotels for the adventurous and well off. However, at a conference call for the press, Biglow said that his company had no interest in transitioning from a laboratory to a commercial concern, so BSO is being launched to operate the modules being built by sister company Bigelow Aerospace.

Diagram of the Bigelow space station
Diagram of the Bigelow space station

According to Bigelow, these stations will be the largest, most complex structures ever built for human habitation in space, with the first, B330-1 and B330-2, expected to launch in 2021. These will be linked together to form a single space complex, but that is only an interim step as BSO is slated 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 carry it into orbit.

As part of this plan, BSO will open a new manufacturing facility in either Florida, Alabama, or some other location that has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the company will assess the global, national and corporate commercial space market for orbiting stations.

"We will spend millions of dollars this year to drill down on a conclusion as to what the global space market is going to look like," says CEO Robert Bigelow. "When we look at what is the commercial picture, as far as humans' use of space today, it's a whole lot different than it was 10 years ago."

Source: BSO

7 comments
SimonClarke
Just a thought, but as President Trump wants the ISS to be taken over by private industry, could it be turned into a hotel?
Brian M
Wonder how the 'inflatable' station deals with the risk from collisions from man space debris and natural occurring objects? The 'inflatable' description sounds even more delicate than the ISS!
Sisko
What facilities will be available for those who's bones and muscles become brittle and weak from spending extended time working and living a microgravity environment?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
It should be pretty easy to make a circle of these and spin it to get gravity.
Derek Howe
SimonClarke - I doubt any company would want the ISS, it's tech is old, even more so in 6 years. It will likely get additional funding from the international community and a little more from the US, and stay alive for a few years after 2024, after which it will be de-orbited.
Brian M - "Inflatable" doesn't mean weak. Bigelows stations are actually more debris resistance then the modules that make up the ISS. He (Robert Bigelow) has had functioning space stations in orbit for a over a decade, plus he has one (BEAM) attached to the side of the ISS.
mike_edward
Long time coming. I think though, there needs to be a world consortium to slow down the amount of 'space junk' that is being deployed. NORAD already has enough trouble keeping track of stuff.
I can see within twenty years there being a 'somewhat affordable' space hotel. By affordable, I mean a person pays a couple $100,000 to go aloft for two or three days ($100,000 per day).
Riaanh
Robert Bigelow, may I introduce you to Elon Musk. Elon Musk this is Robert Bigelow.