Company Aims To Build Private Space Station by 2015
The second experimental pathfinder spacecraft by Bigelow
Aerospace, Genesis II, has been successfully launched and inserted
into orbit. The privately-funded space station module was launched
on a Dnepr rocket Thursday morning from the ISC Kosmotras Yasny
Cosmodrome in the Orenburg region of Russia.
The company reports the flight and stage separation of the Dnepr
performed as planned, with Genesis II separating from its rocket
about 14 minutes into orbit. The company's Mission Control in North
Las Vegas, NV made first contact at 2:20 pm Thursday afternoon.
Robert T. Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder and owner of the
Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has committed $500 million
toward building a private commercial space station by 2015,
according to the International Herald-Tribune.
Initial data suggests sufficient
battery voltage and "decent" air pressure, but confirmation of
solar panel deployment and spacecraft expansion has not yet been
received, spokesman Chris Reed.
"But all the data indicates that's the case," he said.
The 15-foot long module was designed to expand to 8 feet in
Genesis II is the second space module designed to test and
confirm systems for future manned commercial space modules to be
manufactured by the Las Vegas-based company.
As ANN reported, Genesis I
was launched last year and operated as planned, expanding and
transmitting pictures of itself in space. The module continues to
successfully return data and images from Earth orbit.
The modules have a flexible outer surface that is wrapped around
a central core at launch and expands into orbit through air
inflation. Several of these modules could be linked together to
form a space station.
The skin is made of several layers including impact-resistant
materials. The company says their test results indicate these
expandable shells are much more resistant to space debris than the
modules on the International Space Station.
Program Manager Eric Haakonstad says with the experience of
Genesis I, they were better primed for the launch of Genesis
"With Genesis I, it was our first rodeo. We didn't know exactly
what to expect," Haakonstad says. "This time, we were able to
perform rehearsals and were more prepared for the launch
The only problem so far was a brief communications difficulty in
Russia, caused a delay in confirming Genesis II's separation from
the Dnepr rocket.
"Any deviation from nominal magnifies the anxiety. When it came
in four minutes later, it was a big relief," Haakonstad says.