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Surprising Science

Budget Suites in Space

Real estate mogul and creator of the Budget Suites of America chain, Robert Bigelow is working to develop similarly spartan accommodation in space. His inflatable hotels will launch by 2016.

What’s the Latest Development?

Self-made real estate mogul and creator of the Budget Suites of America chain, Robert Bigelow believes the next big place to build hotels is in Earth’s orbit. He is developing technology that, once launced into space, will inflate to offer astronauts a home away from home. Bigelow is seeking government support while consumer demand remains non-existant. He envisions his hotels as alternatives to the International Space Station (I.S.S.). While some fifty nations have space programs, the great majority of I.S.S. crew have come from the U.S. or Russia.

What’s the Big Idea?

Like his Budget Suites chain, Bigelow’s space hotels will be for medium-term rental, but “budget” is a relative term. A three month stay in a module called the Sundancer will cost $97.5 million. The price tag demonstrates just how new the commercial space industry is now that N.A.S.A.’s shuttle program has been terminated. Bigelow is currently working with Boeing in order to schedule a launch for 2016; Boeing itself is working under N.A.S.A. contract to develop rockets that can carry supplies and astronauts to the I.S.S.

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