NASA announced recently that it has awarded a contract worth $17.8 million to Bigelow Aerospace. The contract will allow Bigelow to build an expandable module for the International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace is a commercial company that builds inexpensive commercial space stations designed for low Earth orbit.
Forbes reports that Bigelow has been working on the development of its expandable space station modules since 1998. The company put its first prototype modules in orbit in 2006 and 2007. The company designs its inflatable modules to work individually in orbit or to be connected other modules to create a larger space station.
More details on the space station module Bigelow Aerospace is working on for NASA will be offered this week at a press event scheduled to be held Wednesday. It is known that Bigelow Aerospace has a launch scheduled with SpaceX in 2015. That launch could be for the inflatable space station module, but that is unconfirmed at this time.
NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver issued a statement noting that the partnership agreement between NASA and Bigelow Aerospace for the use of expandable habitats "represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that could allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably..." Specific details about the inflatable module and when it is expected to be added to the orbiting International Space Station will be offered on Wednesday.