Bigelow Launches Prototype Space Habitat

Congratulations Bigelow Aerospace!, Space Frontier Foundation

"Small steps and giant leaps. That is what the opening of a frontier is all about," said the Foundation's Rick Tumlinson. "This small step towards the creation of an orbital station is actually part of a giant leap forward in the opening of space."

Genesis I Mission Update 12 July 2006, Bigelow Aerospace

"Aerospace mission control has begun to acquire information from the Genesis I spacecraft. The ISC Kosmotras Dnepr rocket has flawlessly delivered the Genesis I into the target orbit of 550km altitude at 64 degrees inclination. Bigelow Aerospace has received confirmation from the Genesis I spacecraft that it has successfully expanded. We have also confirmed that all of the solar arrays have been deployed."

Inflatable space dreams, MSNBC
Fly Your Stuff In Outer Space With Bigelow earlier post
Bigelow's Gamble, Aviation Week

Reader comment: While Bigelow deserves the credit, our government deserves the blame.

NASA was developing the inflatable module 'Transhab' in the late 90's as additional storage space for ISS and possible use on lunar or planetary manned missions. Of course, that was before budget cuts and ISS was still 'real'.

The Genesis 1 is a perfect example why the government has difficulty in attracting talented engineers. The engineers who worked on Transhab saw their project cancelled and their dreams along with the project. Even those of us who were not directly involved in the design could see the potential benefits of the program and were disappointed at the cancellation.

This is a recruiting poster child - "Work for NASA. We'll waste a few years of your life, your ideas, and your dreams."

As I meditate on this, it seems as if only a dictatorship or unrestricted private enterprise (a dictatorship) has the will to follow through. Democracy or parliamentary monarchy only acquire the will when faced by a major threat to its survival - WWII, Cold War, Space Race, - and then they become 'dictatorships' for the emergency. As soon as the emergency is over they revert to rule by popularity and wafting in the current breeze.

Maybe we should take the X-Prize as a model. If the government wants something, state the requirements and put up the prize. The only government involvement would be to get their own agencies out of the way of the competitors and to pay the prize winner.

The only flaw that I see is that the 'government' couldn't agree on the requirements, have anybody smart enough to write them or be so couched in legalize as to be unintelligible at worst and vague at best. My recent experience is the Program Requirements Working Group for the IBSS providing input for payload bay accomodations capability.

I was one of the engineers working on software to record and report sensor information from the TransHab system, so while not an expert (and I was a contractor, not a NASA gov't employee), I have some familiarity with the original program. NASA engineers had a very interesting idea, and worked out a lot of the technology necessary to fabricating the inflatable structure. So far, so good. True, politics killed the project - although the Columbia tragedy prompted a lot of the monetary restructuring that took place during that time as well. Basically the spigot for R&D funds was completely shut off.

Bigelow subsequently licensed the existing technology through a Space Act - one of NASA's better ideas. My company also has some significant NASA technology acquired through a Space Act and, like Bigelow, we've been able to capitalize on it in a way that NASA hadn't - or wouldn't - or didn't - or whatever.

The concept that NASA can, and does, create excellent ideas and then license them to industry to profit from is a pretty good model (in my not-so-humble opinion). So I don't know if 'blame' is QUITE the right word...

I'd also like to publicly wish the entire Bigelow team all the best, and congrats on a successful launch and initial checkout! I hope to fly some 'stuff' on the next one!

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on July 12, 2006 9:25 PM.

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