|Artist's rendition of a SpaceX Dragon Capsule mated with a Bigelow |
inflatable space station module.
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.