Two major companies, Bigelow Aerospace and Axiom Space, have announced plans to launch habitat module space stations into orbit by the year 2020. Both companies are planning the launches to be profitable ventures, which means that most likely there will be human inhabitants of such space stations.
These human inhabitants would most likely consist of tourists and scientists (both from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and international).There is a belief in the space and aeronautics community that such private space stations will eventually replace the International Space Station as the norm for galactic space habitats.
The International Space Station (ISS) is currently only funded through 2024. When NASA inhabits ISS, they are forced to pay all operating costs on the space station. With private space stations, inhabitants would simply pay a sort of rent for the facility.
"Hopefully, if we're successful in the private-sector community, NASA's going to save a boatload of money, on multiple locations [in orbit] not just one with more volume than they've ever had before," said Robert Bigelow Aerospace, chief executive officer and founder of Bigelowon Wednesday at the 2016 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight. "So, whether it's Axiom or us or other people, that is the future."
As for now, both Bigelow Aerospace and Axiom Space have only officially announced plans for space stations that will orbit the earth. Robert Bigelow, however, has often expressed an interest in the private sector exploration of deep space.