On Friday, Bigelow Aerospace published an intriguing half-announcement. The post hints at an ambitious time-frame for space station module development.
What's the impetus behind this announcement? My speculation is that Bigelow signed a substantial customer for its modules. The announcement includes a paragraph that states that Bigelow is cutting its "Fly Your Own Stuff" program short -- the program will begin and end with Genesis II in early 2007. The program was an experiment meant to open up an additional revenue stream for Bigelow, so apparently the need for that sort of revenue stream is no longer considered a priority. But who would be a substantial customer for Bigelow? I don't imagine Bigelow predominately to be a U.S. government contractor -- or at least predominately a NASA contractor -- so it seems likely that an unannounced entity of some size made an order.
The reference in the announcement to the U.S. launch deficit could be due to a quantity order of SpaceX Falcon 9 flights at a suitable price. SpaceX has been moving up its plans for manned spaceflight to enable it to deliver on a possible NASA space station resupply contract due 2010. It seems odd that Bigelow would place an order only months after SpaceX's failure on the Falcon 1 maiden flight. Perhaps Bigelow saw that Elon Musk had the fortitude to work through SpaceX's problems.
Overall, this announcement points to some fun possibilities.