As Bigelow Aerospace founder and president Robert Bigelow discussed on our Seniorhelpline Show podcast this summer, the company plans to build a low-cost, low-Earth-orbit facility (from 200 to 500 miles above Earth's surface) that will be safe for humans and available for commercial use. The space complex will consist of expandable modules - a prototype of which launched into orbit successfully in July on a Russian rocket.
Lockheed and Bigelow will begin their partnership by exploring the technical requirements for a rocket that would take both humans and cargo to Bigelow's space station. The most likely candidate for private manned space flight is the Atlas V rocket, which is currently used to launch government cargo to a wide variety of orbits. After analyzing the initial business and technical models, the companies will decide whether or not to proceed with a human-qualified Atlas V program.
If the companies determine that it's feasible to proceed, the enormous costs of transporting cargo and people to space could fall drastically, making trips to space for the everyman less of an unrequited dream, and more of a bonafide space hotel reality. -Erin McCarthy
Listen to Robert Bigelow discuss inflatable space hotels on The Seniorhelpline Show: