The Bigelow Sundancer space hotel is right now something
dreams are made of, but in the future that dream will become
a reality. Billionaire Robert Bigelow, founder of the Budget
Suites hotel chain, is attempting a significant breakthrough
in the private space tourism.
If all goes according to plan, Bigelow Aeronautics will be
offering a revolutionary stay in the Sundancer space hotel
revolving around the Earth.
The vacation escape will cost around $8 million a week per
person, which is a far cry from the $20 million being charged
by another space tourism company per week in the International
The $75 million Sundancer space hotel, offered by Bigelow,
will be truly one of a kind offering 180 cubic meters of habitation,
attitude control, orbit maneuverability and three windows
to support a crew of three. Bigelow began his foray in aerospace
when he apportioned $500 million for his company Bigelow Aerospace.
Not only did he make enough money to go off on this "adventure",
he launched his first prototype hotel into space last summer,
the Genesis I, and he is preparing to launch Genesis II, loaded
with living organisms, this summer. Genesis 2 will also have
cameras and computers to track the acclimation of different
organisms to the space environment.
Space has always been regarded as a risky place for travelers.
Meteor showers, weightlessness, intense sun rays, and radiation
are only a few of the concerns that many in the space industry
have to deal with. Bigelow Aeronautics has found ways to combat
such fears. In December 2006, Genesis 1 survived a severe
solar event, which had knocked out communications for a couple
of hours, but the ship came back in tact and offered much
data on such a recovery.
The Bigelow Sundancer space hotel will be at the forefront
in technological advances with its water-filled cushions in
the walls to deflect radiation, Vectran (Kevlar-like) walls
to protect from space debris, and of course, life-support
tanks filled with oxygen. Bigelow has spent a vast amount
of money, time, and effort to make his goal of becoming a
forerunner in the space tourism field feasible.
The Bigelow Sundancer will be the first private "human-rated"
space hotel, which is set to launch in 2009 or 2010. With
a large life-support tank inside, the Sundancer will inflate
to a whopping 6,400 cubic feet total, in which approximately
six humans can live comfortably including the crew.
Because the Sundancer is so large it is doubtful that the
same Russian Dnepr rocket that carried the current Genesis
I into orbit can also carry the Sundancer. This is why Bigelow
has partnered with Lockheed Martin to use its Atlas V rocket
to propel the Sundancer into orbit.
The Bigelow Sundancer is not the only space hotel on the
books, however, for this company. Bigelow Aeronautics is also
working on its Nautilus module, which is reported to be 10-times
the size of Genesis I.
While Robert Bigelow's pioneering of the space tourist field
is extremely expensive right now, it represents a future where
one day space tourism will be affordable by many. While the
Sundancer may be the playground of the rich at the offset,
with time, engineering breakthroughs and competition, it may
just one day become a glorified ride on Space Mountain.