I-Team: Bigelow launches venture to manage space stations

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Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow announced a new venture Tuesday that he hopes will create hundreds of high tech jobs.

The new company is called Bigelow Space Operations and it aims to help countries and companies manage multiple space stations in the not-too-distant future.

Bob Bigelow has always figured that his inflatable habitats could be the building blocks for a range of commercial space stations, either as stand-alone labs in low earth orbit or multiple units combined to create a larger version of the International Space Station or even as permanent bases on or above the lunar surface.

Twelve years ago, he had tentative agreements in hand with eight nations who wanted to use Bigelow habitats for their own space programs. Then the global economy tanked.

“The atmosphere changed overnight dramatically. We kept working,” Bigelow said.

He is still intent on being ready to launch his own space station within three years. In the meantime, his BEAM spacecraft attached to the I.S.S. has proven its durability and usefulness during its nearly two-year test. And launch companies, including SpaceX have made amazing progress, encouraging enough that Bigelow thinks there could be a huge market for management in space.

Tuesday morning he announced the launch of BSO, Bigelow Space Operations, a separate company that would, essentially, help countries or corporations manage future space stations.

The first challenge is finding out how large the market might be.

“We intend to spend millions this year drilling down to a conclusion one way or another, what will the global market look like? We will indicate if the news is terrible, mediocre, or great,” Bigelow said.

In a media conference call, Bigelow said the two biggest obstacles to BSO’s success are China and NASA. NASA because it can’t seem to make up its mind what to do with the I.S.S., or what comes next, and China because it is aggressively courting those countries which were U.S. partners in the I.S.S.  The Chinese have plans for their own space stations.

“They’re offering very attractive terms and conditions and features that the commercial sector will have a horrible time trying to compete with,” Bigelow said.

By the end of this year, he expects to know if BSO will be able to fly.

The new company has already filled senior management positions including a chief operating officer and general counsel. If all goes well, it expects to employ 400 to 500 employees and have offices around the world.

Tonight at 11, the I-Team looks at another way the Bigelow plant has generated worldwide attention and recent stories about a mystery metal that was stashed at the North Las Vegas facility.
 

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