29 June 2007

Robert Bigelow, a billionaire has launched a prototype space hotel, named Genesis II, into orbit via a Russian craft. It is basically a large inflatable unit, with communications and sensor clusters. Following successful positioning, the hotel is now communicating, sending back images.

The predecessor, Genesis I was launched in July of 2006, and was also a success. As far as I know, it is still in orbit.

The experimental hotel is paving the way for its successor, already named the Nautilus according to engadget, or possibly the Galaxy followed by the SunDancer. Bigelow Aerospace has even opened up the floor for innovators to get in on making this viable with “America’s Space Prize” where $50,000,000 is offered for building a craft capable of carrying a crew of five to 250km and docking with a Bigelow Aerospace module. Unfortunately - this is available only to Americans.

What does the space hotel mean?

This is a pretty interesting development. A space hotel may have implications for the future.

Hopefully this area may allow development of cheaper travelling methods, and push forward the space elevator project, as well as biodome systems. Including botanic gardens on such hotels, as well as considering power generation, food growing, oxygen recycling and so on would be a huge boost to the space program, and even contribute to the viability/survivability of humankind as a whole.

Systems that can effectively process waste (and not merely launch it away) may need to be developed, pushing money into closing loops of consumption, which would help recycling efforts back here on earth.

What Next?

I am interested in when we will see off-planet manufacturing/fabrication plants.

The advantages of an off planet fab plant are many. Contamination Free Zones would be easy. The scale of the thing would be limited to shipping things up there, but space tourism will make this cheaper.

Since real estate is pretty cheap out there, expansion gives few costs in those terms.

With limited gravity, large structures or machines could be constructed, as well as fabrication systems that take advantage of weightlessness by projecting things at slower speeds.

Solar power, as well as atomic power systems can be used in ways that are either not so efficient or safe on earth.

Hopefully such systems will not need to be manned, as a downside would be cheap labourers sent off-world to such labs.


However, all of this comes at a cost. Rockets burn a huge amount of fuel, and this all ends up adding to the carbon footprints. Systems must be engineered to maintain stable orbits or occupy midpoints with few gravitational influences.