Bigelow releases NASA-funded study on public-private partnerships

Washington DC
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Bigelow Aerospace has formally completed the first phase of a public-private partnership study commissioned by NASA, laying out how the agency can capitalise in private spaceflight efforts.

"We typically ask industry how they can participate or be part of [NASA development] activity," says Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human spaceflight. "We thought instead of doing it the typical way we would turn it around a little bit, we would ask industry what they're interested in. look for areas we no longer need to develop capability, and let the market do that."

The report will become publicly available in coming weeks, says Gerstenmaier.

Bigelow Aerospace is widely known as a builder of inflatable space and lunar habitats, and is working closely with NASA to build an addition to the International Space Station (ISS). The company intends to launch the first stand-alone habitable station in 2016.

The report - the first of two - explores potential cooperation with NASA for low Earth orbit capabilities, including transportation to and from, life support capabilities and research. Despite NASA's traditional involvement with such programmes, the agency has been moving to de-emphasize low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities, allowing it to focus on more ambitious fare such as flights to Mars or an asteroid.

"At NASA we focus on deep spacewe can do lots of co-development between us [and the private sector]. We'll do that where it makes sense to share," says Gerstenmaier.