Inflatable space complex launched

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Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable, habitable space complex technology demonstrator, Genesis I, has been successfully deployed and is transmitting data from its 550km (341miles) altitude, 64° inclination orbit, writes Rob Coppinger.

An International Space Company Kosmotras Dnepr rocket launched the spacecraft at 14:54GMT from Russia's Yasny base on 12 July. Once in orbit, the spacecraft, based on NASA-developed technology, inflated itself, deployed its solar arrays and transmitted data to Bigelow Aerospace's mission control centre in Houston.

"The internal battery is reporting a full charge of 26V, which leads us to believe that the solar arrays have deployed," says Bigelow Aerospace.

Data received so far gave the internal temperature of the spacecraft as 26°C (79°F) and the spacecraft's global positioning system signal has been acquired, enabling mission control to track it in flight.

Genesis I is the first of six to 10 demonstrators planned to be flown by 2010. By 2012 Bigelow Aerospace wants to fly its first full-scale habitable structure. The company's full-size habitable complex is called BA-330. Suggested uses for the complex, which the company also calls a Commercial Space Complex, include as a space hotel.

The Moscow-based International Space Company Kosmotras is a joint venture between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the National Space Agency of Ukraine.