Bigelow continues to plan big things

Robert Bigelow continues to have, er, “Big” plans for “low” earth orbit:

The Bigelow Aerospace commercial inflatable manned space module venture intends to have three large multi-module outposts in Earth orbit by 2015 to serve different user communities.
CEO Robert T. Bigelow says his engineers predict 800 paying crewmembers could fly to Bigelow outposts over the next 10 years.

I hope he’s right. Next up to watch for from Bigelow Aerospace will be the launch of the Genesis II module aboard a Russian SS-18 Dnepr booster this spring (Genesis I is in orbit and has performed well):

Although the same 15 X 8-ft. size as Genesis I with four solar arrays on each end, Genesis II will have more mature systems. It will also transmit data to more Bigelow ground sites beyond the Las Vegas plant.

It is a one-third scale version of the manned commercial space modules Bigelow Aerospace hopes to launch in the future. Unlike the company’s previous spacecraft, Genesis II will feature several systems and materials not flown on Genesis I. This includes upgrades to vehicle control and sensors, a multi-tank inflation system and additional layers to the module’s outer shielding.

There will also be a total of 22 combined interior and exterior cameras on Genesis II that include articulated and an exterior projection system to allow the display of images on the main body of the vehicle.

And in a test of aerospace billboard advertising like that pioneered by Goodyear Blimps, Genesis II will carry a large exterior sign reading “Blair, Bigelow’s granddaughter.” Future signs would be funded by paying customers, not grandpa.

Genesis II features items and pictures sent up by paying customers as part of the “Fly Your Stuff” program. The photos and items will be photographed and displayed on the Bigelow Aerospace web site, Public participation will also include the first-ever robotic “Space Bingo” game and a Biobox life sciences experiment featuring colonies of ants, scorpions and other small life forms. This is designed to be an experiment keyed to module habitation as well as an educational element for schoolchildren.

Then, in 2008, comes the Galaxy module launch. Galaxy will be twice as large–half the size of the planned operational manned modules.

Maybe the future I thought I’d live in is going to happen after all.

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