Friday, July 21, 2006

Bigelow Aerospace launches orbiting habitat

The private-sector space industry and space tourism took another step forward this week with the successful launch and deployment of the Genesis 1 one-third scale prototype space station. Bigelow Aerospace seeks to develop and operate inflatable space habitats for space tourism and private laboratories. From the Bigelow Aerospace website:

In 2000, I announced our original goal of 2015 (and $500,000,000 later) as being the year we would have our first commercial space complex (CSC) in orbit. We might be ahead of schedule. The problem is transportation. We expect to fly two spacecraft this year in 2006 that we are referring to as Genesis I and Genesis II. By 2010, Bigelow Aerospace hopes to have flown 6-10 pathfinder/demonstrator spacecraft. By 2012, Bigelow Aerospace may be ready to fly its first full-scale habitable structure.

The launch of the Genesis 1 orbital module is a step (or giant leap) towards the privatisation of space, something which I believe to be essential if humanity is going to effectively utilize space.

In the search for a suitable private space craft for the commute into orbit, Robert Bigelow has set a $50 million prize to the team that builds the first orbital vehicle capable of carrying up to seven astronauts to one of his inflatable modules by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galatic is planning to begin test flights in 2007 for its space tourism program, where they plan to send passengers paying the $200,000 ticket price on sub-orbital flights. Apparently they already have a long waiting list of paying cliental. Virgin has chosen Scaled Composites, the winners of the 2004 Ansari X-Prize, to build their fleet of passanger space craft.

Also, the company that sent the first tourist into space aboard Russian rockets, Space Adventures Ltd., is about to start offering its clients a new option while staying at the ISS: a spacewalk for and extra $15 Million.

I think it’s great to finally see the space tourism industry on its way to success. With an ever increasing line of rich customers wanting to experience the final frontier, I believe that space development will continue to expand, and eventually a private space industry will exist that is sustainable and ultimately beneficial for all humankind. has an exclusive article about Genesis 1, and there is an interesting article on the Genesis 1 mission on Cosmic Log.


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