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Last week, NASA announced that it will pay $17.8 million for the Nevada-based company's Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which will be affixed to the huge orbiting lab as a technology demonstration.
NASA and Bigelow will discuss the deal during a media event Wednesday (Jan. 16) in North Las Vegas, where the company is headquartered. BEAM could help prove out the viability of inflatable crew habitats, potentially jump-starting Bigelow's ambitious plans in low-Earth orbit and, perhaps, on the surface of the moon.
Bigelow Aerospace was founded in 1999 by Robert Bigelow, who made his fortune in real estate and finance. He also owns the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, for example.
Bigelow Aerospace specializes in expandable habitats, which launch in a compact form and then inflate upon reaching space. The company says expandable modules offer greater on-orbit volume and better protection against radiation and micrometeoroid strikes than traditional "tin can" designs can provide.