Genesis-1’s voyage to stars and beyond.

This is arguably the most important launch in the near future development of commercial space. Bigelow is among several entrepreneurs attempting to break into the fledgling manned commercial spaceflight business. The launch was a first for the startup Bigelow Aerospace, founded by Bigelow, who owns the Budget Suites of America hotel chain. The goal of the maiden Genesis mission will focus on the inflation process; an important aspect to determine the feasibility of constructing an expandable space habitat. Bigelow has committed $500 million toward building a commercial space station by 2015. So far, $75 million has been spent on the project. The watermelon-shaped Genesis I is a one-third scale prototype of the commercial space station to which the company eventually hopes to fly humans.

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The 2,800-pound Genesis I measured 14 feet long and 4 feet wide at launch and was to inflate to twice that width in orbit. Bigelow Aerospace then licensed the inflatable technology from NASA. Bigelow Aerospace had received confirmation from the Genesis I spacecraft that it had successfully expanded and also confirmed that all of the solar arrays had been deployed.

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