Today is an appropriate day to link to this article by Debra Werner of SpaceNews:
“Would NASA have a program in a Taco Bell Station?” asked Blair Bigelow, Bigelow Space Operations LLC co-founder and vice president of corporate strategy. “On a government-subsidized station, we are held to highest and best use. With a commercial space station, we won’t be successful if we are held to the same kind of rules of engagement.”
Bigelow Aerospace is on schedule to have two private space stations ready to launch in 2021, Bigelow said. Bigelow Space Operations will be responsible for sales, customer service and operation of those space stations, she added.
Erin MacDonald, who was in the audience for the panel discussion, said she raised the question of Taco Bell sponsorship because she was concerned about education and public outreach. Would a private space station require schools to pay? If so, that would prevent a lot of kids from getting access, she said.
Jeffrey Manber, NanoRacks chief executive, said he did not see corporate sponsorship as a problem. NanoRacks plans to refurbish a Centaur upper stage to turn it into a private orbital outpost it calls Independence-1.
“If we are going to do a commercial space station, we have to succeed in the marketplace,” he said. “I’m sure you and everyone you know takes part in things that are sponsored. We welcome that.”
The name “Taco Bell Space Station” would do a hell of a lot more to get public buy-in for a space program than “Lunar Orbiting Platform—Gateway,” that’s for sure.