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« More Conference Reporting | Main | Teleology »

Now This Is A Prize

Bob Bigelow (who is not in attendance at this Personal Spaceflight Symposium) is apparently offering three quarters of a billion dollars for a launch contract:

The contract or purchase agreement would be worth $760 million in total for eight launches. To show that Bigelow Aerospace is serious, it will deposit $100 million in an escrow bank account up front if the plan goes forward.

The potential offer tops the $500 million NASA has budgeted for its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme, which is part of the agency's own effort to spur development of commercial orbital crew launch capabilities.

Sounds like he's finally starting to get serious about solving the launch problem.

[Update a few minutes later]

I find the timing of this announcement interesting. I doubt that it's a coincidence that he decided to do it the same week that NASA issued an announcement for a COTS recompetition.

If one believes that one of the reasons that RpK had trouble closing their financing was because people didn't believe that the NASA market could be counted upon, this provides a useful secondary (or even primary) market to help make the business case. Perhaps it was his intention to help the COTS competitors get their financing lined up.

Posted by Rand Simberg at October 25, 2007 02:07 PM
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I'm astonished at the amount. Mr. Bigelow mentioned before that he was ready to invest up to $500 million into the station project (with $100 million already spent). Where are all these extra millions coming from?

Also, I seem to recall that Elon Musk promised a perfectly capable spaceship for a lot less. Seems like we're going to see Atlas V pushed into service. At least my layman's sense says so, but I don't know anything.

Posted by Pete Zaitcev at October 25, 2007 02:43 PM

That my friends, is real skin in the game.

Posted by Mike Puckett at October 25, 2007 03:07 PM

Two things. First off remember that it isn't $760M up front. A lot of that would come during operations. Which means that a decent chunk of that is likely going to be offset by the ticket price. So the amount Bigelow is actually risking out of pocket is likely only going to be some fraction of that.

Second off, while Elon claims he can deliver, even the biggest SpaceX fan in the world would probably understand why Bigelow would want to have more than one potential launch provider.


Posted by Jonathan Goff at October 25, 2007 03:20 PM

Now would be a good time for NASA to put up some money for COTS option D (ISS crew transportation) ... contingent on the Bigelow money being offered, and technically compatible with the potential Bigelow-serving launcher.

Posted by RED at October 25, 2007 05:27 PM

I wonder if Bigelow will drop the money restriction on government funding for the vehicle design he had in the America's Space Prize competition.

The stars look like they are aligning for Musk to elope with COTS, the Bigelow contract and a bunch of new business if it executes on its order book. That should result in an IPO that may be a 'Netscape Moment' that would get a bunch of other firms heavily funded.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 25, 2007 08:48 PM

I think a "Netscape moment" is a bit much to ask for now. Having said that, there's almost no "New Space" presence in publically traded companies. So any New Space company turning a profit is probably going to command a premium.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at October 27, 2007 07:52 AM

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