2007-11-13

Private space stations today

Did you know there were already private space station prototypes in orbit? I had no idea.

What has long be the province of governments is now in the hands of private enterprise. In this article, Wired Magazine tells the story of Robert Bigelow, founder of the Budget Suites hotel chain.

He's a billionaire and, he's nuts. He's obsessive about privacy and security. He's funding his own quests to identify UFOs and potentially real extraterrestrials.

And he is building a space station. The prototypes are currently orbiting the planet.

It's easy to snicker at the James Bond theatrics at the headquarters of Bigelow's eight-year-old company, Bigelow Aerospace. It's even easier when you find out he's trying to build his very own space station. An inflatable space station, to be precise — a massive bouncy castle meant to expand when it gets into orbit. It will be the first privately owned destination in space, and Bigelow proposes to rent it out as an orbital research lab, a training facility, or even a tourist hotel. Sure, have a chuckle. But here's the thing: He's actually doing it.

In the past 16 months, BA has successfully shot two Hummer-sized prototypes of the station into orbit. Dubbed Genesis I and II, they're circling the globe as you read this. The last one went up in June, blasting out of Earth's atmosphere on the back of a modified Soviet-era SS-18 missile. It was launched from a space complex in central Russia, ISC Kosmotras, the rocket-for-hire venture run by Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

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It's a fascinating story. I wondered how someone get to the point where they start with little money, become a billionaire, decide to build a space station, and then actually build it.

As it turns out, he's from Vegas.

1 comment:

LDK in STL said...

And, again, I ask, "WTF?"

*wink*