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May 07, 2010

This Could be the Breakout Year for SpaceX and New Space

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SpaceX aiming to launch three additional test flights of the Falcon-Dragon system by the end of this year, culminating in a berthing demonstration at the space station. That would open the way for robotic cargo deliveries that could earn SpaceX $1.6 billion through 2016. The list price for a Falcon 9 launch is around $50 million, compared with $138 million or more for an Atlas 5. SpaceX is currently waiting for the Air Force to sign off on the Falcon 9's flight termination system. The Falcon 9 will have its first launch sometime after May 23, 2010.

SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to launch 15 Falcon 9 flights -- three test flights and 12 missions to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. Contract options could increase the value of the deal to $3.1 billion. SpaceX will be a contender for future NASA contracts to launch U.S. astronauts on round trips to the space station.


Bigelow Inflatable Space Hotel Starting Marketing Campaign

Bigelow Aerospace is kicking off a marketing campaign to attract national space agencies and corporations to its privately funded inflatable space station

Bigelow is developing two commercial habitats: the 180-cubic-meter Sundancer and the larger BA 330. The company intends to launch a Sundancer in 2014 to test its capabilities. Provided the testing phase goes well, a second Sundancer and a docking node bus will be deployed by 2015, followed by a 330.

Bigelow sees his customers coming from two large buckets: the 50-60 nations that do not have the wherewithal to support an indigenous space program, and corporations. “A lot of countries have astronauts, but what they don’t have is much opportunity for those astronauts to fly,” he says.

Bigelow envisions governments and corporations making up the bulk of his company’s customers. Prices will range from $200 million-$400 million, depending on the number of “seats” that are purchased. He is pitching Bigelow Aerospace’s space station as an “affordable alternative” to the International Space Station, which “is controlled by the Russians and the U.S., with another 14 or so countries along for the ride.”

Bigelow also sees an untapped market in companies that would use a space platform to perform materials work, undertake pharmaceutical research or conduct experiments in microgravity.

Three-quarters of the per-astronaut fees will go toward transportation, which Bigelow is buying in volume. The company is eyeing United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets as candidates to orbit both the inflatable modules and the propulsion and docking units. Bigelow Aerospace’s plans also count on a viable crew transfer vehicle being ready by 2014. The company is talking to Lockheed Martin on its plans for a CTV capsule and is working with Boeing on a CTV prototype. Bigelow also is keeping an eye on the Dragon CTV that SpaceX is developing for launch on the Falcon 9.


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