Bigelow Aerospace is an American space technology start-up company, with headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is pioneering work on inflatable space station modules. It was founded in 1999 by hotel tycoon Robert Bigelow and is funded by the fortune he made through his Budget Suites of America chain.
Bigelow Aerospace acquired the patent rights to TransHab, an inflatable space habitat concept that had been studied by NASA but then shelved by the agency in 2001 following Congressional budget cuts. Over the past few years, the company has been evolving NASA's ideas and on July 21, 2006 launched its first Genesis experimental inflatable spacecraft aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket. The craft was successfully deployed and is expected to remain in orbit for the next five years while engineers test the durability of the design.
Inflatable spacecraft are commercially attractive because they take up less space on their launch vehicle than solid components and therefore cost less to place into orbit. Bigelow Aerospace's stated intent is to "develop an affordable and flexible space complex architecture that can be adapted for any manned or unmanned mission requiring a large pressurized volume."