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Bigelow's bigger ambitions

In a provocative announcement, Bigelow Aerospace says that the success of its Genesis 1 inflatable orbital module - coupled with anticipated changes in the American launch industry - has led it to make some "bold decisions" and accelerate the timetable for its future launches:

"Due to a number of factors related to the outstanding performance of Genesis I, the hoped-for adequate performance of Genesis II and various additional factors — including, but not limited to, domestic and international issues forecast over the next four to five years bearing upon America’s transportation and launch deficits — we have made several bold decisions. An important announcement early in 2007 subsequent to the launch of Genesis II shall expose some of our plans."

The announcement goes on to say that Genesis 2, a module that will be the same size as Genesis 1 but more technologically advanced, will provide the only opportunity for Bigelow's "Fly Your Stuff" program, which will put mementos into orbit for a price, then arrange for pictures of those floating mementos to be beamed back down to Earth.

Last month, the company's owner, billionaire Robert Bigelow, said his efforts to put a private-sector space station in orbit might be speeded up because Genesis 1 exceeded expectations so thoroughly.

Does this latest announcement signal a breakthrough for Bigelow's budding space program? A speculative leap of faith? A "limited offer" marketing technique? All of the above, or none of the above? Stay tuned - and in the meantime, check out NASA Watch's notice about Bigelow's space patent (which was picked up and expanded upon by New Scientist).