NASA will pay 17.8 million dollars to Bigelow Aerospace for testing an experimental habitat known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. This model would be the company's third orbital prototype, but the first to be tested as part of a crewed spacecraft.
The demonstration is not only expected to help Bigelow lease space to paying customers aboard its planned free-flying Earth-orbiting outposts, but also NASA, who is interested in the technology for future deep space missions, such as to an asteroid, the moon, or Mars.
According to NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, the partnership agreement represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably.
By using inflatable habitat concepts originally conceived by NASA, Bigelow Aerospace hopes to have a commercial alternative to space station technology.