NASA and other government based programs used to be the way to space travel. Now it is different. There are new small private commercial companies that are now competing against each other to be the first one to bring people to space on a commercial flight. Bigelow Aerospace is one of those companies.
NASA, Public domain (link).
Bigelow Aerospace was founded in 1999. The company’s goal is to put their first commercial space complex (CSC) in orbit by 2015. To reach that goal, they first made a spacecraft that was designed to enter space and expand its volume. This craft was called Genesis I. It was launched on July 12, 2006 in the Orenburg region of Russia.
Genesis I was an extraordinary ship that ushered in a new era of private spacecraft. It had a hard shell skin, 6 inches thick, with a multilayer system. It expanded 4.4 meters in length and 2.54 meters in diameter. It had 11.5 cubic meters of usable volume. Genesis 1 had 8 solar arrays. It also had a communications antenna. Shortly after its launch, Genesis I expanded successfully and sent back lots of data and images to the Nevada Mission Control Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This very successful flight brought the creation of Genesis II.
Genesis II was the company's second space habitat. Genesis II was launched on June 28, 2007, from Yasny, Russia. The unmanned module successfully reached orbit after 14 minutes. Due to the mechanics of the ship, first contact established was over Virginia 7 hours and 4 minutes later, confirming that everything was all right. Genesis II orbits 15.03 times a day and is still flying.
Sundancer is the company's third proposed space habitat to be launched and the first human rated inflatable module. It will be used to test and confirm systems used in commercial space station efforts and may form the company's proposed commercial station.
Bigelow is one of the companies that is trying to take people to space on commercial flights. They have worked hard trying to do this, building modules and designing ships. Let's see what the future holds for them!