WASHINGTON and LONG BEACH, Calif. — Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing inflatable space habitats for commercial use, laid off some 40 of its 90 employees Sept. 29, a company official confirmed.
“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. “This core group allows us to retain key human capital and capabilities, with which we are continuing to aggressively pursue the development and eventual deployment of the BA 330 system.”
The BA 330 is a six-person inflatable space station Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nev., is developing to serve commercial and government human spaceflight markets. The BA 330 is one of the proposed commercial platforms Boeing Co. intends to serve with the CST-100 space capsule it is developing with financial assistance from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.
Bigelow Aerospace employees told Space News that the company laid off nearly all of its machinists and that most of the workers retained are associated with the Boeing CCDev effort. Bigelow’s partnership with Boeing on the CST-100 predates Boeing’s 2010 CCDev award.
Gold, in his email, said the layoffs “were caused by a perfect storm of events.”
“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.”
Bigelow Aerospace, founded by motel mogul Robert Bigelow, views space agencies around the world as a key market for its planned space habit. The company has deployed two smaller-scale inflatable test habitats in space using Russian rockets.
Space News correspondent Debra Werner contributed from San Francisco.