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Bigelow Speeds Up Plans for a Human Habitable Space Station

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Where are you planning to go on your next vacation? Hawaii, Mexico, or Europe would be nice. But what about a trip into orbit? Space tourism entrepreneur Robert Bigelow announced this week that he’s going to be fast tracking his plans to a launch an orbital space hotel. With his current prototypes, Genesis 1 and 2 already in orbit, Bigelow has decided to skip another unmanned prototype and go straight for the habitable Sundancer module, launching as early as 2010.

Bigelow posted the news on his company’s website this week.

According to Bigelow, the incentive for the decision came from the rising costs of launching spacecraft into orbit. The company was originally planning to launch its Galaxy prototype next. This was supposed to be a 45% scale prototype module that would bridge the gap between the Genesis modules and the first human test module: Sundancer. After both Genesis modules launched successfully, and have been sending back exactly the kinds of scientific information Bigelow Aerospace required, the company decided another unmanned prototype wasn’t necessary.

The company will still construct and test the Galaxy prototype, in order to gain familiarity and experience with the subsystems, but they won’t actually launch it. This gives time in their schedule, and additional budget to move up the launch of the Sundancer prototype.

When it finally launches, Sundancer will be capable of accommodating three people in orbit. In his website post, Bigelow targeted 2010 as a possible launch date, but speculates that it might happen “much earlier than any of us had previously anticipated.” So, maybe even 2009 isn’t out of the question.

How people are actually going to reach their hotel in space, that’s another question.

Original Source:Bigelow News Release

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Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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