Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Inflatable Space Station Prototype a Success 73

Posted by Zonk
from the inflatables-in-spaaaaace dept.
Adam Weiss writes "The Genesis 1 inflatable space station prototype was launched last week from the Ukraine. Now, after a few days of forced silence, Bigelow Aerospace has announced that the mission is so far a complete success. Their website has a detailed description of the launch, as well as the first picture from the craft. For an account right from mission control, the Museum of Science in Boston has posted an interview with Eric Haakonstad, the Program Manager of the mission."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Inflatable Space Station Prototype a Success

Comments Filter:
  • by UR30 (603039)
    Quote: "After eight years of planning, the actual creation and delivery into space took only nine months." This is fast. Now that space is not for big governments any more, it will be interesting to see what can be done with space. For example, what about debris in orbit, which will be a serious problem. Will space be a business opporturnity for waste-management companies?
    • For example, what about debris in orbit, which will be a serious problem.
      Well they can always build it at a handy Lagrange point [wikipedia.org] so there's at least plenty of room for it to spread out. As a bonus, the orbit would be that much more stable, as well.
      • by MrFlibbs (945469) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:07AM (#15730745)
        Ah, but getting to a Lagrange Point requires much more energy and therefore, cost. The shuttle can only achieve low earth orbit, and in fact NASA currently has no operational system to take humans any further than the Internation Space Station.

        For a commercial venture, getting people into low earth orbit is the only viable near-term solution. Putting a space hotel at the L5 point is still a long way off.
        • I think it just makes more sense to keep a space station as close to earth as possible. You're better shielded from cosmic radiation, and people don't want to look out into the vast emptiness of space, earth is a much more appealing sight. Also, the sun-earth L4 and L5 are chock full of asteroids, it'd end up being a disaster in wait.

          Save the lagrange points for telescopes and what not.

          I can't help but be fascinated by Bigelow. If I had the resources I'd build myself a vacation home on my favorite aster

        • This space hotel in LEO would be useful as a starting point / gas station for trips further out. If each launch that carries an inflatable module were also to carry an extra container of fuel and leave it there, over time you could assemble a substantial fuel depot where later missions headed to the Moon or Mars could refuel after escaping the atmosphere.
      • Well they can always build it at a handy Lagrange point [wikipedia.org] so there's at least plenty of room for it to spread out. As a bonus, the orbit would be that much more stable, as well.


        As if suburbs on our own planet weren't bad enough!

        - RG>
    • by hey! (33014)
      Now that space is not for big governments any more, it will be interesting to see what can be done with space.

      I agree, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons.

      Space exploration will still require government help. But governments, at least democratic ones that operate by consensus, aren't good at small things. By the time everyone's put their two cents in that's a lot of cents and more to the point, a lot of "stakeholders".

      Ventures like this, and of course Scaled, are almost too small for a government t
    • For example, what about debris in orbit, which will be a serious problem. Will space be a business opporturnity for waste-management companies?

      The inflatable module is designed to handle a certain level of debris impacting it. Even the ISS has a layer of Kevlar around it to protect it. No matter how well protected a space station might be, there is the possibility of something with higher kinetic energy striking it. A full-scale station, like the ISS, will have to have maneuvering capability.

      There is,

    • Reminds me of the anime Planetes [wikipedia.org]. Has a rather interesting (IMO) take on what could happen, especially with a corporate space culture.
  • This is exciting news. When I first came across the Trans-hab concept, I thought it was brilliant. Now, a non-government entity is opening the doors to space by actually placing one in orbit. Wow!

    Pity it looks like a weather balloon.
  • by Kranfer (620510) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:11AM (#15730435) Homepage Journal
    While I knew about this last week (whats with the lag on stories guys?!) I think that this design concept is something that should definately help the private space industry. I have been keeping up with the new private space companies through space.com and other outlets of information over the last year or so and I love this stuff. Not only is this design concept something new and innovative, but it is also paving the way for private stations to be built in space for less than say... the ISS is costing. I am a fan of the ISS as well, don't get me wrong, but this new technology has the potential to making stations much much larger than the ISS and allow for more dare I say it... spacious interiors for research and living quarters... since if you need more space you just launch another module that inflates itself and attach it. Don;t have to wait 2 years for this huge bulky thing to be built and put onto a shuttle to launch it either. Now all they have to do is figure out a way to do this on the moon. It'll be more difficult, as we all know, because of the fact that regolith on the moon is more abrasive... I wonder how this module would do in such conditions... anyone know?
    • While I knew about this last week (whats with the lag on stories guys?!)

      You know, most stories you see here on slashdot are submitted by people like you. If you wanted to see this appear on slashdot when you knew of it last week you could have submitted an article link and summary yourself.
    • this new technology has the potential to making stations much much larger than the ISS and allow for more dare I say it... spacious interiors for research and living quarters

      Not to mention the bouncy walls :)

    • I am a fan of the ISS as well, don't get me wrong

      You just lost me. And, I'd bet, a large percentage of your potential audience.

  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:19AM (#15730493) Journal
    I've just received word from my sources at Bigelow Aerospace that their experimental autopilot [affordable...titute.org] is working great! This inflatable technology is AWETHOME!
  • I think UR30 is on to something, anyone have any ideas what being hit by a small piece of space junk, a piece smaller than my fist but moving at a few hundred miles an hour will do to one of these things? I really want ideas like this module to suceed, anything to reliably get more people and productive work into orbit. On a humerous note, does an inflatable space station seem like something from Futurerama or Sluggy Freelance to anyone besides me?
    • Re:Space Debris (Score:3, Informative)

      by MarkusQ (450076)

      anyone have any ideas what being hit by a small piece of space junk,..will do to one of these things?

      I can't find a link at the moment, but ground tests showed pretty much what you'd expect--it does much better than a metal can, to roughly the same extent as a modern bullet proof vest out performs a suit of (aluminum) armor in a gun fight.

      Yes, there are things that will destroy it. But Kg for Kg, Kevlar is a lot better than aluminum foil at protecting you from small, high speed impacts.

      --MarkusQ

    • Re:Space Debris (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HangingChad (677530) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:04AM (#15730735) Homepage
      I think UR30 is on to something, anyone have any ideas what being hit by a small piece of space junk, a piece smaller than my fist but moving at a few hundred miles an hour will do to one of these things?

      Millions in engineering and they overlooked that little detail. Time to pack it up and go back to the drawing board.

      Of course it would do damage. Just like it would do damage to a conventional space station, the Hubble, shuttle orbiter or anything else in LEO. You'd be lucky if it was only going a few hundred mph. More likely it would be thousands of mph and the effect would be spectacular regardless of what it hits. Anything the size you describe is probably already being tracked, along with burned out motors, dead satellites, wrenches, and pieces of insulation. What's harder to track are paint chips and debris from collisions. One dead Russian sat is leaking blobs of liquid metal.

      Here's a good blog on space junk [blogspot.com]. One proposed solution are satellite robot junk collectors that snag space junk and then deorbit to dispose of it. Make a couple of those a part of every mission. For the big stuff all that's required is slowing it down a few meters per second and the atmosphere takes care of it for you. The problem are things too small to track.

      • I've always been curious of solutions to the space junk problem. This was one proposed solution [movementarian.com]. Another that I thought of is to drag a giant curtain around with you in orbit, capturing, if not deflecting stuff. Sort of like dragging a big net through the ocean. Then, when done, just empty it (not sure how yet) at the atmosphere, and everything burns up. Unless you catch a satellite in the process :)
    • Re:Space Debris (Score:2, Informative)

      by camperdave (969942)
      anyone have any ideas what being hit by a small piece of space junk, a piece smaller than my fist but moving at a few hundred miles an hour will do to one of these things?

      It would probably just bounce off. This is not some child's latex balloon we're talking about. The walls consist of five layers of carbon fiber composite. The TransHab module that this thing is based off of had 16 inch thick walls.

      More than 50 ballistics tests at the University of Dayton Research Institute and the University of Den

      • I was a student under the lead engineer and patent holder of the original TransHab module. Dr. Scnieder now works for Bigelow. I've read so many "pop" like a balloon comments over the years, they drive me crazy. This system is MORE robust than an aluminum module. If the current system works like the original transhab sheild, I can tell you exactly how it works. There are alternating layers of a super-high strength fiber fabric, simmilar to kevlar but much harder. Its a ceramic based fiber IIRC. These are a
    • Interesting topic, I can relate to an experience I had as a child. If you shoot a red rider BB gun at an aluminum can, the BB punctures it, but if you shoot it at a big plastic inflatable punching bag (you remember, the kind with sand on the bottom) it bounces right off and hits you in the face, scaring the bajesus out of you.

      What I'm saying is, I think the inflatable kevlar bag has more potential of stopping the meteor dead in it's tracks than the aluminum can called ISS. It's also more forgiving if the

    • He who lives in inflatable space station should not throw glass...
  • by Max von H. (19283) on Monday July 17, 2006 @07:30AM (#15730552) Homepage
    From Bigelow's website: "At this point in time, the vehicle is happy and healthy."

    Reminds me of some elevators and automatic doors, all very happy to serve.

    *chuckles*
  • It would be like Macys' parade!

    -a.d.-

  • I wouldn't mind having an inflateable submarine [yahoo.com] before upgrading to an inflateable space station. My rubber duckie gets lonely.
  • Is this even real? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JamesTKirk (876319) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:21AM (#15730831)
    OK, we don't have the launch footage because someone knocked over the camera(!?!?). And we lost contact right after launch because of a power outage. But here's a really blurry picture to prove it's up there.

    Also, our business model is that if we just get it up there someone else will... um... well, rent it or lease it for something. You know, it's just like building a strip mall. If you just build the space, someone else will pay to occupy it or use it to advertise. Except, of course, that this is in space where people can't really get to or see.

    This story is so sketchy, and the web site is so cheesey, I'm tempted to think this whole thing is fake. I know it's been in the news before, but so has the Phantom console. At best, it sounds like some crackpot in Real Estate came up with a stupid but futuristic sounding idea, and managed to get a lot of funding for it.

    The only possible use I can see for this is to lease it to NASA. NASA could save money by abandoning the ISS and use this for a lower cost. Of course NASA ran out of useful experiments to do a long time ago, so I don't know what they would actually use this for, but it would be cheaper than what they're doing now.
    • I first heard about his efforts a number of years ago and have been periodically checking up on this project. Bigelow is taking huge risks. He has spent estimated 70 million so far, of his 500m+ fortune. He is undoubtedly doing it mostly for his own interest. I read that he is a very effective manager and can do this sort of thing for cheap. Why hire a $50,000 camera crew when you have a camcorder, and a tripod you got free for applying for a capital one card at the vegas auto show. (DOH!)

      I had my doubts,

    • This story is so sketchy, and the web site is so cheesey, I'm tempted to think this whole thing is fake.

      Um... you can see it for yourself [heavens-above.com], and the satellite has been tracked by government ground stations since its launch.

      The only possible use I can see for this is to lease it to NASA.

      Or the various millionaires who might want a roomier destination than the ISS to take a trip on a Soyuz rocket to.
  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday July 17, 2006 @08:42AM (#15730946) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:
    Las Vegas, We Have a Problem
    Just as the anticipated time of SpaceQuest's contact with the Genesis I was approaching, a major storm caused power outages in much of the Arlington area. SpaceQuest, which was to receive the first communication from Genesis I and relay it to Las Vegas, had no power. Now, there was a little more than 30 minutes before SpaceQuest controllers were supposed to hear a cry of life from the Genesis I, but there was no life in the receivers in Virginia.

    They are trying to manage a SPACEFLIGHT and they don't have a simple backup power source? Don't book my ticket just yet please...

  • by johnthorensen (539527) on Monday July 17, 2006 @09:14AM (#15731137)
    4. If you had the opportunity to play a free game of bingo coming directly to you from the spacecraft with the possibility to win prizes, how often would you visit the site?

    WTF? Space Bingo? What kind of circus clown is running Bigelow Aerospace if this is their idea for making piles of cash with a manned spacecraft? And who the hell thought the target market for an aerospace venture would be my 70-year-old grandmother?

    Just goes to show why nerds work on the tech end of things, not the marketing...

    -JT
    • WTF? Space Bingo?

      You laugh, but one of the talks at the last Bingo World conference was on attracting younger players. (I missed it, because I was in a different talk at the time.) They do glow-in-the dark bingo and shit like that, and it works. I think Bingo is about the most boring way to waste your money possible, but I'm sure there's something worse. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion; lots of people love bingo.

      You can bet your ass that people bored to play online bingo in the first pl

  • by Teun (17872)
    Well done is my first thought.

    Private input into the space industry is an inevitable part of it's future.
    Finding of risk capital for novel ideas is possibly their biggest asset compared to traditional government projects.

    But I somewhat less impressed by all the (tm) stuff in the Bigelow website; the phrases 'Fly your stuff', 'Out there', 'Life and death', 'By your command' and 'Multiverse' are now trade marks???

    Just imagine Columbus having trademarked things like 'Go west' or 'The world is round'.
    When

  • What does Ukraine have to do with this project?
  • by veinard (469297)
    I'm so glad it blew up!
    that sounds weird to say...
  • by E++99 (880734) on Monday July 17, 2006 @10:22AM (#15731581) Homepage
    When Arthur C. Clarke imagined that in 2001 we would build an artificial computer intelligence that would turn homicidal in order to wrest control of a spacecraft, and that in 2010 we would land on a moon made entirely of diamond, people thought that sounded plausible and cool.

    On the other hand, if someone had proposed at that time that in 2006 a spacecraft would launch from the Ukraine called "Genesis 1", and that mission control in Las Vegas would lose power at the last minute and would have to run an extension cord to the restaurant across the street for power, people would have thought that was the stupidest, most implausible thing they had ever heard.
    • When Arthur C. Clarke imagined that in 2001 we would build an artificial computer intelligence that would turn homicidal in order to wrest control of a spacecraft...

      HAL was compelled to obey the orders he was given, and was given contradictory orders: ensure the success of the mission at all costs, and serve and protect the crew. When it began to appear to HAL that the crew themselves could be a threat to the success of the mission, he had to choose the order that was given higher priority.
      • HAL was compelled to obey the orders he was given, and was given contradictory orders: ensure the success of the mission at all costs, and serve and protect the crew. When it began to appear to HAL that the crew themselves could be a threat to the success of the mission, he had to choose the order that was given higher priority.
        Oh, sure, the old "it can only be attributable to human error" defense. ;-)
    • On the other hand, if someone had proposed at that time that in 2006 a spacecraft would launch from the Ukraine called "Genesis 1", and that mission control in Las Vegas would lose power at the last minute and would have to run an extension cord to the restaurant across the street for power, people would have thought that was the stupidest, most implausible thing they had ever heard.

      I'm not so sure. There's a fair amount of SF from way back that assumes that space travel will be much like everything else

  • Um, no. For those who can't be bothered to google, the Dnepr is a joint Russian-Ukrainian venture to make a profit out of disposing of expired ballistic missiles. Russia has lots of old SS-18 "Satan" ICBM's sitting around, which are expensive to maintain, many of which are past expiration date, and which it anyway has to get rid of thanks to the START treaty. The Satan was originally designed by OKB Yuzhnoe, which is located in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Yuzhnoe therefore gets the job of converting the old IC
  • by Ian-K (154151)
    I guess this gives a whole new meaning to "inflatable toys"...
  • One of the first communication satellites was the Echo 1, a metalized mylar inflated sphere...back in 1960.

    It was large - lightly over 30 meters in diameter. It stayed in orbit for 8 years and was visible to the naked eye as a very bright star. The advantages were wide bandwith and low cost, but the disadvantage was high signal loss.

    Echo II was an improved version, with better sphericity and reflectivity, boosting performance, but passive sats were no longer sexy and NASA abandoned them for active satelli
  • From TFA:
    For Bigelow, a dream first drawn out when he started Bigelow Aerospa
    ce in 1999 had become reality.
    [...]
    After eight years of planning, the actual creation and delivery into space took
    only nine months.

    Let's see... 1999 + 8 years of planning + 9 months of "creation and delivery" (
    starting in October) would have to mean we're somewhere in 2009 right now...
  • These foreign companies, man.

    It seems like every time I pick a profession, some foreign company is ready to take it over. At this rate, how much you wanna bet NASA outsources 60% of the Astronaut jobs to Ukraine?

    First, it was prostitution. Then EI pays me to upgrade to an IT Professional. What happens? The whole motherload of the IT profession gets shipped over to mama India. Why did I ever bother to immigrate here anyways? Could've just crossed the border and stayed in Bombay.

    Then, EI pays me to upgr
  • According to this article in Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log, you can actually spot the Genesis-1 spacecraft for yourself in the night sky. From the article:

    Bigelow wasn't just being metaphorical about seeing that Genesis spacecraft in the sky. Satellite experts have already worked out a schedule of viewing opportunities - some of which should be bright enough for the naked eye. Go to the Heavens-Above Web site [heavens-above.com], plug in your coordinates, then go to the satellite database and search for "Genesis-1." You can also go
  • So that's where all that non-free and restricted software comes from! It's in orbit! [bigelowaerospace.com]

    :wq

Loose bits sink chips.

Working...