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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

In New Space Race, Enter the Entrepreneurs

• New York Times
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — At the Bigelow Aerospace factory here, the full-size space station mockups sitting on the warehouse floor look somewhat like puffy white watermelons. The interiors offer a hint of what spacious living in space might look like.

“Every astronaut we have come in here just says, ‘Wow,’ ” said Robert T. Bigelow, the company founder. “They can’t believe the size of this thing.”

Four years from now, the company plans for real modules to be launched and assembled into the solar system’s first private space station. Paying customers — primarily nations that do not have the money or expertise to build a space program from scratch — would arrive a year later.

In 2016, a second, larger station would follow. The two Bigelow stations would then be home to 36 people at a time — six times as many as currently live on the International Space Station.

If this business plan unfolds as it is written — the company has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already — Bigelow will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that the Obama administration would like to finance for the transportation of astronauts into orbit — the so-called commercial crew initiative.

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