Astropreneur and terrestrial hotel magnate Robert Bigelow has decided to speed up the timetable for his orbital hotel, making berths available by 2009, or perhaps even earlier. He already has two successes under his belt with Genesis I and II, sent up on Russian rockets, and rising launch costs due to "inflation, previously artificially low launch costs and the falling value of the U.S. dollar" have forced his hand:
Bigelow Aerospace's billionaire founder says he'll be skipping a step in his grand plan to send up an inflatable space habitat capable of hosting humans, due to escalating launch costs. That means Bigelow's Sundancer module, which will be designed to accommodate three people, could be ready to go even before 2010….
Sundancer had been set for launch in 2010, but Bigelow's comment that a habitable complex could be available "much earlier than any of us had previously anticipated" implies that 2009 or perhaps even late 2008 might be in the cards.
As always with the private space race, caution is advised:
Just don't chisel those dates in stone: Sure, Bigelow Aerospace has been successful so far, but schedule snags could still develop during the Galaxy testing phase. And Bigelow might decide to wait until there's an orbital spaceship available to transport passengers to Sundancer. That could be a SpaceX Dragon, or a Rocketplane Kistler K-1, or a SpaceShipThree, or even an extra Russian Soyuz craft.
Meanwhile, China's mapping the moon, all the better to "exploit the vast quantities of Helium-3 thought to lie buried in lunar rock."
Read all about the private space scene here.