Bigelow Aerospace is adding a 185,000 square foot expansion to its production plant in North Las Vegas. This represents the birth of a global industry. It is way beyond research and development. It's a production facility for spacecraft, a factory for building habitats for use on the moon, or Mars, or beyond. There are three spacecraft, three production lines and an assembly plant.
Bigelow expects the plant to be open for business by this time next year. It means his lean workforce of 115 would expand by an additional 1,200 new positions -- engineers, technicians, and support staff.
Starting just over 10 years ago, Bigelow committed $500 million of his own money. He licensed a canceled NASA project called Trans-hab, added 14 or so of his own patents, and created a much improved expandable habitat that, essentially, means more space in space. One was launched in 2006, and another in 2007. They are still up there.
"Both vehicles performed flawlessly in terms of pressure maintenance and thermal control -- environmental containment. We're real pleased with their performance," said project manager Erik Haakonstad.
They were so pleased, the company skipped right over an interim craft to go for the gusto -- three different designs that each offer much more than the cramped modules that make up the International Space Station.
"This is three times the volume of the average module on the ISS," said Bigelow. "These are totally self-contained, habitable spacecraft."
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