Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Inflatable spacecraft launches from Russia - Yahoo! News: "Inflatable spacecraft launches from Russia By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer
5 minutes ago

An experimental inflatable spacecraft bankrolled by real estate magnate Robert Bigelow rocketed into orbit Wednesday to test technology that could be used to fulfill his dream of building a commercial space station.
The Genesis I satellite flew aboard a converted Cold War ballistic missile from Russia's southern Ural Mountains at 6:53 p.m. Moscow time. It was boosted about 320 miles above Earth minutes after launch, according to the Russian Strategic Missile Forces.
The launch was a first for the startup Bigelow Aerospace, founded by Bigelow, who owns the Budget Suites of America hotel chain. Bigelow is among several entrepreneurs attempting to break into the fledgling manned commercial spaceflight business.
Mission controllers began communicating with Genesis about seven hours after liftoff. Early indications showed that the spacecraft was behaving as planned, according to a statement by the company.
The spacecraft's internal battery was at full charge, meaning that it had deployed its solar panels, the statement said.
Despite the successful launch, significant hurdles remain.
Mission controllers will continue to download information from the spacecraft over the next several hours to determine its health. Once that's confirmed, it will begin the tricky job of ballooning itself to twice its pre-launch width in a process that could last several hours.
Bigelow hopes to use inflation technology to build an expandable orbital outpost made up of several Genesis-like modules strung together like sausage links that could serve as a space hotel, science lab or even a sports arena.


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