By Keerthi Chandrashekar / ( | First Posted: Jan 14, 2013 11:32 PM EST

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

If you think your rent is high, wait until you hear how much NASA just dropped on one room. On Monday, NASA announced that it has awarded a $17.8 million contract to aerospace contractor Bigelow Aerospace for an inflatable space habitat extension that will complement the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA is hoping that the habitat, dubbed the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), will pave the road for cheaper habitable environments for humans in space. 

"The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that enables important discoveries that benefit humanity and vastly increase understanding of how humans can live and work in space for long periods," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in a press release

"This partnership agreement for the use of expandable habitats represents a step forward in cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably, and heralds important progress in U.S. commercial space innovation." 

NASA did not provide any specific details about the module, but stated that Bigelow Aerospace founder and president Robert Bigelow will reveal more information about the module at an event held in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 1:30 EST.

The BEAM module could have to spend up to two years in orbit before connecting to the ISS, according to NASA officials. It will most likely be launched into orbit through a private space contractor such as SpaceX.

Ever since its founding back in 1998, Bigelow Aerospace has been pursuing the development of affordable space travel and space habitats and put its first early test models in orbit in 2006 and 2007. It hopes to one day create modules that can be assembled into private space stations for use by whoever can afford to foot the bill. 

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