Friday, May 11, 2012

SpaceX and Bigelow Make it Official

Artist's rendition of a SpaceX Dragon Capsule mated with a Bigelow
inflatable space station module.
Like a previously coy couple that finally decides to declare that they are "In a Relationship" on Facebook, SpaceX and Bigelow have come clean about their space tourism alliance. Today the two companies announced plans to send people into space aboard SpaceX's Dragon Capsule for extended stays in Bigelow's BA-330 inflatable space station modules.

The partnership was inevitable. The two companies were made for each other from the start - SpaceX has been developing rockets and passenger capsules, operating on the "If we build it the customers will come" mantra since 2002, while Bigelow launched its proof of concept - Genesis - back in 2007 and has been sitting in the R&D phase waiting for launch vehicle technology to catch up ever since. The companies have been in talks for years, and their emergence from the hand-holding flirtation phase elicits a collective sigh of "Finally!" from the industry, rather than a gasp of surprise.

The announcement comes at an odd time, as SpaceX is 8 days away from it's big cargo mission to the ISS, and thus not in a great position to capitalize on the publicity opportunities the announcement affords. Maybe they are feeling pressure due to ATK's recent announcement ("Hey guess what guys, we have a rocket too! LOLZ"). Or maybe they felt left out of the hyped-up space news conference extravaganza.

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