With its inflatable habitat now being tested on the International Space Station, North Las Vegas company, Bigelow Aerospace, is setting its sights past the ISS and into deep space.
"If you are going to a deep space mission do you really want to be cooped up in a small little closet with a number of other people for a very long time," said President and Founder of Bigelow Aerospace.
The next step for Bigelow Aerospace is pitching a larger version of its inflatable habitat to NASA, the B330. It's an expandable module 30 times larger than one attached to the International Space Station.
"That would give NASA a really great opportunity to test all kinds of things they are going to need to depend on for everyone's life for deep space missions," said Bigelow.
It would be built at Bigelow Aerospace's North Las Vegas factory and could be ready for launch and link up with the space station by 2020. It would be leased to NASA and could provide astronauts with a lot more space. The new venture is called XBASE, which is short for Expandable Bigelow Advanced Station Enhancement.
Astronauts entered the smaller Bigelow Expandable Activity Module or BEAM for the first time Monday. Astronauts will be testing it over the next two years to make sure it can withstand debris impacts, temperature fluctuations and radiation over time.
Unlike the BEAM, the B330 would have its own life support and propulsion system.
"The big advantage for NASA is by having this on stations, they have a tremendous amount of room in one vessel to work with," explained Bigelow.
Bigelow believes such expandable habitats could be key to eventual deep space exploration.
"You are going to have to have some kind of medical solutions, some kind of medical facilities somewhere, you are going to have living quarters."
And Bigelow believes his expandable habitats could one day provide all of that. If it all works out and NASA accepts the pitch, it could mean more jobs at the North Las Vegas facility and could draw other companies to the area further down the line.