Private Space of The Future

Private space exploration took a potentially significant step forward this week as Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to send a series of inflatable space stations into orbit over the next decade.

The spacecraft, initially designed by NASA for use with the International Space Station, would be available to train astronauts from nations not currently active in space, as well as companies that could manufacture unique products in weightlessness.

“We think the time will come when orbiting space complexes won’t be considered a novelty, but a necessity,” said Bigelow’s president, Robert Bigelow, who made a fortune as founder of Budget Suites hotel chain.

Bigelow already has a prototype of its planned station in orbit and is scheduled to launch a second on a Russian rocket later this month. The prototype Genesis II will launch from Orenberg, Russia, and will carry a payload that includes a Madagascar giant hissing cockroach, scorpions, an ant farm, and an internal camera to watch their acclimation to space.

The first Bigelow vessel designed to house a human crew, called Sundancer, is now in development and is scheduled to launch by the end of 2010.

Cited article: Washington Post

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