NewSpace companies Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Bigelow Aerospace announced today that the commercial space firms will begin offering rides to Bigelow’s commercial space stations once they are on orbit and ready to receive guests. Both companies will work together on a joint marketing campaign with a special focus on international customers.
Passengers will launch in one of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft atop one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets. Once in orbit, the Dragon will rendezvous with one of the Bigelow habitats that have yet to go online.
Bigelow Aerospace is developing the BA 330 space station for eventual deployment in space. The BA 330 habitat has approximately 330 cubic meters of usable volume, with the capability to support a six-person crew. These modules can be combined on orbit, creating a far larger complex.
Bigelow Aerospace already is working on plans to connect these modular habitats in orbit for a wide range of organizations. National and international space agencies, private companies and universities are all being courted as potential clients for microgravity experiments and access on the BA 330.
SpaceX has entered into numerous agreements and contracts with several companies, NASA and the U.S. Air Force. According to Elon Musk in 2008 stated that the commercial space firm had signed 14 contracts to launch payloads on the Falcon 9. SpaceX also has signed a contract with Iridium that is worth an estimated $3 billion. SpaceX, to date, has launched two of the Falcon 9 rockets that would serve as the launch vehicle for these contracts. SpaceX will attempt to launch the third on May 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) in Florida.
If all goes according to plan with next week’s launch, representatives from both companies will start their marketing campaign in Asia. Japanese officials will meet up with the NewSpace duo to discuss potential future efforts.