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Bigelow, ULA Partner To Put Inflatable Habitat In Space

Rendering of two Bigelow modules in space. Photo: Bigelow Aerospace
Rendering of two Bigelow modules in space. Photo: Bigelow Aerospace

A new partnership between two private space companies hopes to create "timeshares" in space.

Las Vegas hotel magnate Robert Bigelow wants to send inflatable habits into space and to do that, he’s partnering with private launch contractor United Launch Alliance.

His company, Bigelow Aerospace, is designing a low-earth orbit habitat that expands. When fully inflated, it’s about the size of a small apartment.

ULA’s Tory Bruno says that while the habitats can be used for scientific purposed, it opens the door to other commercial opportunities.

“This is going to greatly expand the opportunities for research manufacturing and yes space tourism,” said Bruno. "We’re really talking about the democratization of space, where [it] will no longer be the sole domain of highly trained, highly skilled, elite astronauts but a place where people like you and me, where normal men and womenm go to live and work."

ULA and Bigelow want to send the habitats into space on an Atlas  V rocket by 2020.

This week, an experimental Bigelow habitat arrived at the International Space Station.

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.