BEIJING, June 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Genesis 2, a privately built inflatable space station prototype loaded with cameras personal items and a SpaceBingo gameblasted into orbit Thursday from a Russian missile base.
It was the second test flight for Bigelow Aerospace, an American space research firm based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Liftoff took place at 11:02 a.m. ET atop a Dnepr booster from a silo at Yasny Launch Base, an active strategic missile base in Russia's Orenburg region.
"It was beautiful," Bigelow Aerospace corporate counsel Mike Gold, who attended the launch, told Space.com immediately after the Dnepr blastoff. "Genesis 1 is about to have company."
Genesis 2 is a near-twin of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis 1 module, which launched in July 2006 and remains operational today. Both spacecraft are prototypes for future commercial orbital complexes that Bigelow Aerospace and the company's founder and president, Robert Bigelow, hope to offer for use by private firms and national space agencies.
Initial signals received at 6:20 p.m. ET told controllers that Genesis 2's batteries were powering up andthe internal air pressure was rising. Later still, pictures sent back from orbit indicated that the vehicle's solar arrays were deployed.
"This is excellent news," Gold said on confirmation that Genesis 2 was operating well in Earth orbit. "I'm a little overwhelmed right now. We still have steps to go through. We're early in the mission ... but this is all good news."
The Genesis 2 modulelooks similar to its Genesis 1 predecessor, but carries a suite of new sensors and avionics to monitor and control the spacecraft in orbit. The sensors will watch over internal pressure, temperature, vehicle attitude control and radiation levels, Bigelow Aerospace officials said.