Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bigelow Lays Off Much of Its Staff

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver views a Bigelow space station mockup during a February 2011 visit to their Nevada facility.

Space News reports that Bigelow Aerospace has laid off 40 of its 90 employees — but not for reasons you might think.

“We are proceeding with a core group of fifty plus engineers, managers and support staff,” Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace’s director of Washington operations and business growth, said in an emailed response to questions from Space News ...

“We had hoped that by 2014 or 2015 that America would again be able to fly its own astronauts. Unfortunately, the prospect of domestic crew transportation of any kind is apparently going to occur years after the first BA 330 could be ready,” Gold wrote. “For both business and technical reasons, we cannot deploy a BA 330 without a means of transporting crew to and from our station, and the adjustment to our employment levels was necessary to reflect this reality.

“If anything, Bigelow Aerospace has been suffering from its own early success, and we’re years ahead of where the rest of the industry is.”

The BA 330 is an inflatable space station module. "The BA 330 can function as an independent space station, or several BA 330 habitats can be connected together in a modular fashion to create an even larger and more capable orbital space complex," according to the Bigelow web site. It can hold six occupants for a long-term visit.

Bigelow's more pessimistic view of commercial crew's timeline conflicts with statements made September 28 by commercial crew vendors estimating they would fly by 2014 or 2015.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told CNN in July that he expects to see "American astronauts climb back aboard American-produced spacecraft to go to the International Space Station" in 2014 or 2015.

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