The new space race is starting to look a lot like the old space race -- except this time it is U.S. and Russian businesses chasing each other down instead of the two countries’ governments.

Moscow-based Orbital Technologies announced Wednesday that it is teaming with spacecraft manufacturer Rocket & Space Corp. Energia to build an orbiting outpost for space travelers. Dubbed the Commercial Space Station, or CSS, it’s slated to be ready by 2016, a company spokeswoman said.

But that’s one year after Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace plans to have its commercial station ready. The company, owned by Robert Bigelow, founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has already built and launched prototypes of inflatable modules that could serve as orbital hotels and  research labs.

So, the race is on to see who will have the world’s first space hotel.

“Once launched and operational, the CSS will provide a unique destination for commercial, state and private spaceflight exploration missions,” said Sergey Kostenko, chief executive of Orbital Technologies.

The CSS will be built in Russia and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket, the same rocket that’s slated to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station after the space shuttle program ends in 2011.

-- W.J. Hennigan