BOULDER, Colo. — The success of Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis 1 module, which has been operating in orbit since July 12, has put the company well ahead in its plans for the larger modules the company is designing to eventually host visitors in orbit.
“From a technological standpoint, we are years ahead of where we thought we would be at this time…due to the success of Genesis 1,” said Bigelow Aerospace Corporate Counsel, Mike Gold. “At this point, we feel we’re ready to move ahead and tackle what will be the largest challenge to date for Bigelow Aerospace…to develop a habitat that will actually be capable of supporting a crew.”
Once it was inflated after reaching orbit, Genesis 1 filled out at nearly 4.4 meters (15 feet) long and 2.54 meters in diameter from its tightly-packed launch configuration of some 1.6 meters across. In its pressurized fully-expanded status, the structure yields 11.5 cubic meters of usable volume. Electrical energy is provided by eight solar arrays, four on each end of the spacecraft.
The launch of Genesis 2, a larger version of the first module, is scheduled for the end of the first quarter of 2007 — again aboard a Russian-built Dnepr rocket, Gold said. But the company already is at work developing Genesis 2’s successor, the Sundancer, which will be rated for human spaceflight, but initially launched unmanned, Gold said.
Sundancer will have 180 cubic meters of habitable space, fully-equipped with life support systems, attitude control, on-orbit maneuverability, as well as reboost and de-orbit capability. This larger module — sporting a trio of windows — could support a three-person crew and be on-orbit in the 2009-2010 time frame, according to the company.
Sundancer is itself a progressive step toward the BA-330 orbital habitat. The “330” signifies the cubic meters of that module’s internal volume. Lessons learned from the performance of both Genesis 2 and Sundancer is driving the design and schedule of future projects, such as the BA-330, Gold said.