Recently, two companies have arisen to challenge Bigelow Aerospace’s domination of the commercial space station market. Now, quietly, Bigelow has fired back where it hurts most: Timeframe.
It seems that the first to get a station to orbit will be in a position to pluck the ripest government and corporate space station user contracts. In this light, Bigelow faces serious, direct competition against the likes of Excalibur Almaz of the British Isles and Russia’s Orbital Technologies, who have each come out and declared a target year of 2015 for launch and deployment of their own stations.
While before the economic collapse Bigelow’s target launch date for Sundancer was 2010, it should come as no surprise that Bigelow’s more recent target date for lofting human-habitable modules was also 2015.
Now, only a few months after Almaz and Orbital Tech announced their station plans, a quick check of Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer module page now lists 2014 as their targeted launch date. Because Bigelow already has hardware built and launched, I believe them when they shift up a timetable. The operations and capabilities of Excalibur Almaz and Orbital Technologies are a little more nebulous – I imagine their 2015 date is being optimistic.
Will either be able to up the ante on Bigelow and declare a 2013 target launch date? Time will tell. However, any competition that can accelerate the deployment of additional destinations in space, even by only a year, is fantastic in my book.
Ad Astra, space station manufacturers. Ad Astra.