A company that builds big, inflatable space habitats has launched a new venture that will market and operate these structures in Earth orbit and beyond.
Today (Feb. 20), entrepreneur Robert Bigelow announced the creation of Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), which will manage the private space stations being built by his Nevada-based manufacturing company, Bigelow Aerospace.
BSO will also conduct in-depth market research, to gauge the demand for these space stations and identify the most promising customer bases. [Bigelow Aerospace's Inflatable Space Station Idea (Photos)]
"We intend to spend millions of dollars this year in drilling down, hopefully, to a conclusion one way or the other as to what the global market is going to look like," Bigelow said in a teleconference with reporters today. "We expect to finish that investigation by the end of this year."
BSO was officially established last year, but it started hiring only last month, Bigelow said. The company has already filled a number of key posts, including chief operating officer and general counsel, and intends to hire three dozen to four dozen people this year. Eventually, 400 to 500 people will probably work for BSO, the entrepreneur said.
Bigelow's space-station plans are based on soft-bodied modules that launch in a compressed configuration but expand greatly once they reach space. Such inflatables offer much more habitable volume per unit launch mass, and better radiation shielding, compared with traditional aluminum modules, company representatives have stressed.