May 17, 2007 at 6:33 PM ET
The launch of Bigelow Aerospace's second prototype for a future space station has been delayed again, from late this month to late June, due to continuing Russian qualms about the rocket that would be used for the launch.
An earlier version of the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket blew up last July, right on the heels of the successful liftoff of Bigelow's Genesis 1 inflatable space module. Since then, the Dnepr has gotten an upgrade - but making sure that the upgrade solves all the problems without creating new ones has taken longer than expected.
Bigelow had already delayed its Genesis 2 launch due to Russian concerns, and word of the additional delay came today in a memo from the Nevada-based company's billionaire founder, Robert Bigelow:
"Bigelow Aerospace has been informed by its launch provider ISC Kosmotras ('Kosmotras') that additional testing of the Dnepr rocket and its ground equipment is being required by Russian authorities.
"Due to last year's Dnepr failure, these new and additional tests have been requested to identify any remaining issues with the system and enhance the overall chances of achieving our primary objective of mission success. Unfortunately, these procedures will create an additional four-week delay. We now expect the launch of Genesis 2 to occur in late June.
"Again, no one likes launch delays and we wish the situation were otherwise. However, we experienced similar delays on the Genesis 1 campaign and, of course, were quite pleased with the end result. Moreover, since Genesis 2 contains a variety of important mementos, photos, and other personal items as part of our pilot 'Fly Your Stuff' program, both Kosmotras and Bigelow Aerospace are proceeding with great caution in order to safely and successfully deliver the spacecraft to orbit.
"The path to space has never been and will never be simple or easy. However, whether it's Genesis 2 or the ongoing work with our future spacecraft Galaxy and Sundancer, we at Bigelow Aerospace are dedicating ourselves to building the foundation for a brighter future, and we hope that all of you will continue to share in the adventure."
Genesis 1 is still providing valuable pictures from space, including a recent view of the wildfire on California's Santa Catalina Island. Putting an even more capable Genesis 2 into orbit successfully will be worth the additional wait.