A Russian RS-20 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile, known as a Dnepr rocket has successfully launched the first piece of the Bigelow puzzle, which could lead to the first “space hotel”.
Genesis I, the world’s first inflatable spacecraft, was carried into its 320 mile orbit on top of the converted Cold War-era ICBM at 6:53 p.m. Moscow time.
5:20 PST: Bigelow Aerospace has received confirmation from the Genesis I spacecraft that it has successfully expanded,” noted a Bigelow release. “We have also confirmed that all of the solar arrays have been deployed.”
Genesis I, the first spacecraft in a series to be built by Bigelow Aerospace, is a one-third scale prototype of a future craft that will eventually be a part commercial space station. Robert Bigelow, Las Vegas real estate tycoon and owner of Bigelow, hopes the station will be operational by 2015.
‘Our goal is to get humanity into space so we can experiment, toy with ideas, try new and different things, and eventually make that miraculous mistake leading to a discovery that will change life forever,’ note Bigelow Aerospace.
In the meantime, flight controllers at Bigelow’s MCC will monitor Genesis I’s systems as it orbits above the earth for up to five years. A long-term exposure to the dangers of space is a high priority for the program before the future manned space station program can proceed. In addition, Genesis I carries around a dozen video cameras, photos of Bigelow employees, and insects that will be studied to determine how they survive the flight.
By the fall, Bigelow Aerospace hopes to launch Genesis II, which will carry pictures and other items from the public for $295 per item. Over the next several years, Bigelow plans to test larger prototype spacecraft, including a full-scale prototype that could to launch as early as 2012.
The goal is by no means inflated, as the billionaire behind the project aims to have a space station ready to be launched by 2012.
‘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,’ said Bigelow.
‘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.’