United Launch Alliance and Bigelow Aerospace plan to put an inflatable habitat in orbit near the moon within five years to function as a depot for lunar missions.

The private companies on Tuesday announced an agreement to place a Bigelow B330 inflatable habitat near the moon by the end of 2022 in anticipation of NASA’s focus on returning to the lunar surface and potential commercial missions, too.

“It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term.” Bigelow said in a statement. “This commercial lunar depot would provide anchorage for significant lunar business development in addition to offering NASA and other governments the Moon as a new exciting location to conduct long-term exploration and astronaut training.”

Centennial-based ULA — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. — has predicted that a lunar-based economy will develop in coming years and will need refueling and other in-orbit infrastructure.

Read more at the Denver Business Journal: http://bit.ly/2ytsBED