NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a new addition to the International Space Station. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will demonstrate the benefits of this space habitat technology for future exploration and commercial space endeavors.
Bigelow Aerospace’s mission is “to provide affordable options for spaceflight to national space agencies and corporate clients” – and they plan to do it, not with multi-billion pound rockets but with large inflatable space stations!
Formed in 1999, Bigelow Aerospace was the brainchild of Robert T Bigelow who wanted to revolutionise space commerce with the development of affordable, reliable, and robust expandable space habitats. His dream became reality in July 2006 with the launch of Genesis I, the company’s prototype expandable space habitat. It’s second prototype, Genesis II, was launched June 2007. Both still orbit Earth.
Their mission statement says Bigelow want to use their patented expandable habitats to greatly exceed the usable space of the International Space Station at a fraction of the cost by developing their next generation spacecraft.
“The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long periods,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. “This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation.”