Las Vegas, NV 06/28/07 - Genesis II, the second experimental pathfinder spacecraft by Bigelow Aerospace, has been successfully launched and inserted into orbit. The privately-funded space station module was launched atop a Dnepr rocket at 8:02 a.m. PDT from the ISC Kosmotras Yasny Cosmodrome located in the Orenburg region of Russia.
The flight and stage separation of the Dnepr performed nominally, with Genesis II separating from its rocket at 8:16 a.m. PDT into an orbit with an inclination of 64 degrees. Still remaining is initial first contact with Genesis II and confirmation of solar panel deployment, outer shell expansion and spacecraft health. That confirmation is expected sometime after 4:30 p.m. PDT after initial passes over the ground communication station in Fairfax, Va., operated by Bigelow Aerospace partner SpaceQuest Ltd.
Genesis II is the second pathfinder space module designed to test and confirm systems for future manned commercial space modules to be manufactured by Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace. Like other BA spacecraft, Genesis II employs a unique architecture with a flexible outer surface that is wrapped around a central core at launch and expands into orbit through air inflation.
Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert T. Bigelow was on site in Yasny to witness the launch with other BA employees, while other BA personnel were gathered at Mission Control in North Las Vegas.
Bigelow Aerospace Program Manager Eric Haakonstad says with the experience of Genesis I, they were better primed for the launch of Genesis II. "With Genesis I, it was our first rodeo. We didn't know exactly what to expect," Haakonstad says. "This time, we were able to perform rehearsals and were more prepared for the launch phase."
That said, a brief communications difficulty in Russia increased nerves in Mission Control, as there was a delay in confirming Genesis II's separation from the Dnepr rocket. "Any deviation from nominal magnifys the anxiety. When it came in four minutes later, it was a big relief," Haakonstad says.
Bigelow Aerospace hopes to provide an update later in the day concerning the status of first contact with Genesis II.
About Bigelow Aerospace:
The mission of Bigelow Aerospace is to open the frontier of space to all of humanity by dramatically reducing the cost of conducting human spaceflight activities. To this end, Bigelow Aerospace is developing orbital complexes utilizing innovative expandable space habitat technology. The Las Vegas-based firm's affordable and flexible space complex architecture can be adapted for virtually any crewed or autonomous mission requiring a large pressurized volume. For more information, go to www.bigelowaerospace.com or call (702) 688-6600