I-Team: Bigelow Aerospace Makes Giant Leap Towards Commercial Space Travel - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Bigelow Aerospace Makes Giant Leap Towards Commercial Space Travel

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Genesis 1 launched last summer and has been such an unqualified success that Bigelow has stepped up his timetable and thinks he could have his first habitable space craft in orbit by 2010. Genesis 1 launched last summer and has been such an unqualified success that Bigelow has stepped up his timetable and thinks he could have his first habitable space craft in orbit by 2010.
Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder (KLAS-TV file photo) Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace founder (KLAS-TV file photo)

A North Las Vegas aerospace company is taking a giant leap in an effort to get paying customers into outer space. Bigelow Aerospace already has two spacecraft in orbit, and things have gone so smoothly, the company now wants to speed up its timetable.

Bigelow Aerospace is two for two in its launch program. In June, its second spacecraft, Genesis II, rocketed into orbit atop a Russian missile and like its predecessor launched last year, is performing flawlessly. If you had your own spaceship and were tailing Genesis II, one of the images you would have seen over the past few days is a big headed space alien that is part of the company logo.

One of the features aboard Genesis II is an outside projection system, sort of an orbiting billboard. To test it out, the company has been displaying images of employees who work at its North Las Vegas plant. Eventually, system could be used for out of this world advertising or special messages that could be downloaded to an earthly web site.

Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, said, "Again this is kind of for fun, to see if we can display an image on the outside of the spacecraft and use it as a screen. It's potentially a revenue stream."

The images displayed so far were already on board before the launch. The next step is to upload images from earth, depending on what a customer might want. This will be the first of those messages, reflecting Bob Bigelow's longstanding interest in UFOs.

Everything has gone so well for Genesis I and II that the company has decided to up the ante. The plan was to launch a slightly larger galaxy craft as an interim step toward Sundancer, the inflatable module that would be suitable for human passengers, scheduled for launch in 2010.

They will still build Galaxy to test life support systems, but they won't launch it. Instead, they're moving right to Sundancer, which would become a destination point for governments, corporations, and private citizens who want to go into space but don't want to pay for an entire space program of their own. One perk that could eventually be offered is space walks.

Robert Bigelow continued, "Among the stars, literally passing around the planet at 17,500 miles-per-hour and you're transcending from daylight to darkness and back into sunlight. I've been told by people who've done it that it gets very spooky."

And presumably, a heck of a lot of fun, which is one element the company wants to put back into space exploration.

Another factor in the company's decision to skip the launch of the medium-sized Galaxy craft is that the Russian space agency has tripled the price of what it charges for a launch.

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