A mastery of space-age technology has put a North Las Vegas company on the map. Now it has inked a highly-lucrative development deal with NASA.
"Of course the first thing that I thought about was jobs," said UNLV mechanical engineering student Michelle Lopez.
Lopez is talking about the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, also known as BEAM, which is going to be built in southern Nevada.
"This represents roughly what the beam spacecraft is going to look like once it's expanded," said Robert T. Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, while looking at a model of the BEAM.
NASA is going to pay $17.8 million to Bigelow Aerospace, which is based in North Las Vegas, to test it and to get it ready to be launched by the summer of 2015.
The spacecraft will act as a new room on the International Space Station. More than likely the inflatable structure will be used for storage and additional sleeping quarters.
"I would think that on board the International Space Station privacy is difficult to find and they're always complaining about having some place to sleep where they're not bothered by other people," said Bigelow.
It's a project Lopez said would be a dream come true to work on.
"One of the reasons I am studying mechanical engineering is because I had one day hoped to work for NASA or for a NASA contractor," Lopez told FOX5.
Bigelow said he is currently hiring.
"We are looking to hire more people, we are hiring people right now," Bigelow said.
Although the company is already spending about $250 million on the project and expects to spend millions more, Bigelow said it will be expanding, and could add as many as 1,400 new employees.
"We have 50 acres on this site, so we have room for more building than what we currently have," Bigelow said.
"They said they'd be launching in 2015. Hopefully I'll be all done and graduated before then," Lopez said.
Bigelow is also working on another project which involves leasing space service stations to NASA.
Bigelow Aerospace is no stranger to space exploration. In 2006 it launched the Genesis 1 spacecraft. Genesis II was launched in 2007. Both remain in orbit.
Copyright 2013 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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