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Agreement lays groundwork for private missions to space hotel

May 10, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
(Chris Thompson / SpaceX )

How about a few nights in a space hotel?

That one day may be possible under a new agreement between Hawthorne-based rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, and Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas.

The two companies announced Thursday they plan to offer rides to orbiting Bigelow habitats, using SpaceX’s Falcon rocket and Dragon spacecraft, which is designed to carry up to seven people.

Bigelow, founded by Budget Suites of America owner Robert T. Bigelow, is building mini space stations that expand in orbit so paying customers have access to space. They have launched two prototypes, and have future plans to launch a larger version.

SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket are being readied in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for a May 19 test run to the International Space Station in an unmanned supply mission.

Following the launch, the companies said they will kick off their marketing effort in Japan. The companies envision national space agencies, companies and universities as future customers. They did not say when the crewed missions to the private space stations will commence.

"Together we will provide unique opportunities to entities -- whether nations or corporations -- wishing to have crewed access to the space environment for extended periods," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. "I’m looking forward to working with Bigelow Aerospace and engaging with international customers."

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Follow W.J. Hennigan on Twitter @wjhenn

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