Elon Musk’s SpaceX in deal with Las Vegas aerospace firm

11 May 2012

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur conducts a crew equipment interface test with the SpaceX Dragon capsule. Image credit: SpaceX. The company is aiming to eventually carry seven passengers in orbit in the Dragon spacecraft

Do you see yourself heading into orbit anytime soon? Well SpaceX is teaming up with Bigelow Aeropspace to launch an international space marketing campaign.

SpaceX, the space exploration firm set up by PayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, has just announced a partnership with the Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

The two companies will be teaming up to carry out a joint marketing effort focused on international customers.

Working with NASA, SpaceX is on a mission to open up a new era for commercial spaceflight.

Otherwise known as Space Exploration Technologies, the company is set to launch its unmanned Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on 19 May from Cape Canaveral to head to the International Space Station (ISS). The aim will be to physically connect to the ISS.

SpaceX had a launch dress rehearsal on 30 April last to verify the company’s Falcon 9 rocket is ready to launch.

“Woohoo, rocket hold down firing completed and all looks good!” said Elon Musk on his Twitter account at the time.

Dragon depicted in orbit, with its retractable solar panels. Image courtesy of SpaceX

Dragon depicted in orbit, with its retractable solar panels. Image courtesy of SpaceX

Nevada billionaire Robert Bigelow

But what about Bigelow Aerospace? The Nevada company was set up by billionaire entrepreneur Robert Bigelow back in 1998. He also owns the hotel chain Budget Suites of America.

Bigelow Aerospace is pioneering inflatable space stations for people to inhabit.

In 2006 and 2007 the company launched its orbiting prototypes Genesis I and Genesis II. It’s currently working on what it’s calling a “new-generation spacecraft”.

As for the partnership with Bigelow Aerospace, SpaceX yesterday revealed that the two companies will, in the future, offer commercial rides on the Dragon spacecraft, using the Falcon launch vehicle to carry passengers to Bigelow habitats that will be orbiting the earth.

“SpaceX and BA have a lot in common. Both companies were founded to help create a new era in space enterprise,” said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

“Together we will provide unique opportunities to entities – whether nations or corporations – wishing to have crewed access to the space environment for extended periods,” she added.

The companies are set to launch their international marketing effort firstly in Asia.

SpaceX said that representatives from both companies will meet with officials in Japan shortly after the launch of the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic