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Wed, Feb 06, 2008

Bigelow Aerospace, Lockheed Martin Nearing Deal For Launch Services

Atlas V401 Called Into Service For Inflatable Space Habitats

It could be a big step for a promising commercial space transport provider. Bigelow Aerospace tells ANN the company and Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services are engaged in discussions, and converging on terms for Lockheed to supply Atlas V launch vehicles to provide crew and cargo transportation services to a Bigelow-built space complex.

As ANN has reported, Bigelow Aerospace already has successfully launched two of its Genesis units, onboard Russian Dnepr boosters. Both successful launches demonstrated the technology and feasibility of the company's expandable space module technology. Bigelow states this experience has formed the basis for a larger, low-cost, low-Earth orbit commercial space complex, which is now proceeding on-schedule into full-scale development... and the company will need a bigger booster for that job.

The Bigelow architecture can be adapted for a variety of missions and is designed to provide increased volume, enhanced safety and reduced costs to the extent that space-based activities will become more affordable for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the public at large.

"I don't think anyone could deny the excellent record and pedigree of the Atlas V401 as a quality choice to be upgraded to carry human passengers," said company founder and President Robert T. Bigelow.

"The Atlas V is ideal to provide commercial crew and cargo transportation for this pioneering commercial space venture," said David Markham, president of Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. "Bigelow Aerospace possesses an unparalleled vision and entrepreneurial perspective that is crucial to truly opening the commercial space market to a larger segment of the population. Targeting the Atlas V for use demonstrates a commitment to flight-proven domestic launch services to ensure success."

The Atlas booster has been used for decades to launch government and commercial payloads to a wide range of orbits, and its reliability record is at the top of the space industry. As the simplest, most robust, and most reliable version of the Atlas V family, the 401 configuration has been selected by Bigelow to launch its space complex.

This launch vehicle, compliant with the Federal Aviation Administration's stringent requirements for unmanned spaceflight, will undergo modest system upgrades that will augment existing safety features prior to flying the first passengers.

During the operational phase, which is currently planned to begin in 2012, up to 12 missions per year are envisioned, increasing as demand dictates.

FMI: www.bigelowaerospace.com, www.lockheed.com

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