NASA’s decision last month to award commercial crew contracts worth a combined $900 million to Boeing and SpaceX has provided a boost for Bigelow Aerospace’s efforts to launch private space stations into orbit.
Bigelow, which has partnered with both companies to provide transportation services to its orbital facilities, plans to hire re-hire workers who had been earlier laid off due to delays in NASA’s commercial crew program.
Robert Bigelow, owner and president of Bigelow Aerospace, called the funding “more aggressive” than prior NASA contracts and said he was “very happy” about the ramped-up investment, which will nearly double the workforce at his North Las Vegas plant….
Bigelow Aerospace won’t directly see any of the NASA funds, except “a very small fraction” as a Boeing testing and fabrication contractor. But the money will allow Boeing and SpaceX to perfect a way to get to Bigelow’s space habitat, where governments and corporations could conduct space research and training if they fail to land a coveted seat on the six-person International Space Station.
Bigelow said NASA is to distribute additional funds from 2013 to 2015. Combine the possibility of sustained federal contracts for Bigelow Aerospace’s partners with an increasing interest in space exploration among other nations and businesses, and Bigelow sees the need for new investments. The company just opened a 185,000-square-foot addition, bringing its North Las Vegas plant up to about 350,000 square feet. It slashed its work force from 150 before the recession to 50 during the downturn; now, it’s looking to jump back up to 90 workers by Christmas. It’s hiring structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as chemists, molecular biologists and workers who craft composite spacecraft parts.
Bigelow said he has marked 2016 as a year when spacecraft availability will meet growing customer demand, and things really take off for the business.
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