Event Category: Launch
Time: 12:53 (GMT)
Event: Bigelow Aerospace successfully launched their Genesis 1 inflatable space station test article on a Dnepr rocket from southern Russia.

In NASA's view: Genesis 1 is an American entrepreneur's inflatable satellite that was launched by a Dnepr rocket (a converted ICBM, known as SS-18 Satan) on 12 July 2006 from the southern Ural mountains. The 1,300 kg craft was successfully inflated about two hours after launch to its normal cylindrical size of 2.4 m x 4.5 m. It is made of a tough sheet fabricated from a composite Kevlar that is often used in bullet-proof vests. Bigelow Aerospace' goal is to launch a few more of them, string them together and promote "space tourism."

From the perspective of the private space exploration and development community, Genesis 1 represents an important milestone on many fronts. Not only was Bigelow Aerospace able to get their satellite successfully launched into orbit and functioning correctly on technological grounds, but they were also able to surpass the political and regulatory hurdles necessary to achieve the goal. Many "private space" enthusiasts share Burt Rutan's take on the project - "Go, Bob, go!" - a comment he made when asked for his opinion by a reporter.

Unlike the simplistic view put forth by NASA of the project, Genesis 1 represents the first step in Bigelow Aerospace' plans to develop space facilities that are cost-effective alternatives for a wide variety of markets. Space tourism will undoubtably be a component of the user spectrum the facilities support. However, their plans will open doors to many other efforts that are now infeasible: Making space-based facilities available on a leased basis, rather than solely by purchase, will drive operational costs down, since the overhead of getting the facilities into orbit will be spread over a range of users. Thus, Bigelow Aerospace is making significant business advances with their effort, in addition to the technological and political/regulatory ones.

The philosophy driving Bigelow Aerospace and their planned offerings are described in the Mission Statement and Pricing for Orbital Activities sections of the company's Web site. For more information about the history of inflatable spacecraft Bigelow Aerospace is building on, follow the links in the Bigelow Spacecraft menu in the footer of their Web pages.

See also NASA's NSSDC Master Catalog page re. Genesis 1




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Space History, July 12, 2006 / Webmaster / Script last modified October 17, 2004 @ 1:27 pm
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