May 26, 2004

Space: Bigelow Aerospace to Tackle Inflatable Space Habitats

Leonard David has an article in Space about the embryonic space tourism industry and Robert Bigelow's plans for Nautilus, an orbital hotel:
But now the North Las Vegas, Nevada-based Bigelow is putting his money down on inflatable Earth orbiting modules. He’s intent on attracting not only high-flying sightseers, but those hungering to crank out made-in-space products and evaluate microgravity processes. Bigelow’s plan is to establish a habitable commercial space station for research, manufacturing, entertainment and other uses.

Bigelow Aerospace is developing the Genesis Pathfinder -- one-third scale hardware meant to shakeout the bugs in a much larger space habitat tagged the Nautilus. The first Genesis test is now slated for launch in November 2005 onboard the maiden voyage of the Falcon V -- an offshoot of the yet-to-fly private booster being designed by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in El Segundo, California. That agreement has been confirmed by SpaceX chief rocketeer, Elon Musk. Plans are also afoot to loft a second Genesis Pathfinder module in April 2006. For this in-orbit evaluation, Bigelow Aerospace has executed a non-technical framework agreement that, pending a U.S. State Department go-ahead, would use a Dnepr booster under contract with ISC Kosmotras, a Russian and Ukrainian rocket-for-hire company.

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