Second Space Hotel Prototype Launched

Genesis II – a second prototype inflatable space module was launched on, June 28th, 2007 atop of a Russian Dnepr missile. Genesis II is another milestone in the commercialization of space, and brings us a step closer to realizing the dream of a space hotel in the next decade.

After several delays due to problems with the Russian booster, the second in a series of inflatable space structures developed and built by U.S. Bigelow Aerospace Company was launched successfully into a 550 km orbit above the Earth. At the size of 11.5 cubic meters (406 cubic feet), this 1.3-ton inflatable space module holds 22 cameras (almost twice as much as the previous model) and several new sensors, which are meant to probe the interior and exterior of the craft. The new module is also safer and more advanced than the Genesis I. The advancements include improved air and water-handling control systems, environmental control systems and robotic manipulators as preparation for the accommodation of larger life systems planned for future missions.  

The Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space hotel concept is intimately connected to NASA’s TransHab Project initiated around 1997. NASA’s engineers devised a light, inflatable module that could be loaded onto a rocket or the space shuttle, squeezed to about a third of its normal size, and inflated to its full size once in orbit. Although NASA abandoned the project several years after it began, Bigelow Aerospace decided to use it as the basis for its Genesis-class space modules. 

Bigelow Aerospace also included several commercial projects onboard the Genesis II including the first space bingo. A different initiative is called the "Fly Your Stuff" program enables paying costumers to send pictures and items (smaller than a golf ball) into orbit for several hundred dollars, where they will be constantly photographed by the ships’ many cameras.  

Following the launch of the Genesis II, Bigelow Aerospace plans to launch a 45% larger inflatable space module in 2008. This large module, called Galaxy, will be the next step in the company’s inflatable space structures evolution. Later down the road, two much bigger modules are planned – Sundancer and the BA330. The latter is planned as a fully functioning 330 cubic meters space hotel, to be opened sometime in the next decade, given appropriate manned commercial space vehicle. 

More information on Bigelow Aerospace’s plans can be found on TFOT‘s in-depth converge of the Genesis I launch. Images and up-to-date information can also be found on the Bigelow Aerospace website
Image: An inside view taken by one of the cameras onboard the Genesis II (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace).