Late last week, Las Vegas based Bigelow Aerospace recieved approval from the U.S. government to launch their new “inflatable space module.” Let me say that again so it can sink in: inflatable. space. module. Bigelow, an independent entrepreneurial firm, hopes that the modules will support made-in-microgravity product development, as well as accomodate the first wave of space-tourists. The test module will be launched next November, and will be one third the scale of the final satellite, to be dubbed “The Nautilus.” Eat your heart out Captain Nemo.
Not to be outdone by the “X-Prize,” Bigelow also announced a competition of their own: “America’s Space Prize.” The contest will award $50,000,000 (thats 50 million dollars) to the firm capable of producing a crew-carrying spacecraft able to dock with Bigelow’s space module.