Well to start off I am just going to say that FINALLY the Atlantis Shuttle has lifted off for the International Space Station (ISS), along with seven astronauts, and the European-built Columbus module. The launch went off just after a Russian Progress cargo ship arrived at the ISS, as well as being seven years to the day since the last science laboratory — the U.S. Destiny module — headed toward the station aboard the same space shuttle. Atlantis is scheduled to dock at the orbital lab on Saturday. More Info: space.com.
In other space news Bigelow Aerospace has been meeting with Lockheed Martin lately trying to settle on terms for Bigelow's use of Lockheed's Atlas V launch vehicles to provide crew and cargo transportation services to a Bigelow-built space complex. If you haven't heard much about Bigelow Aerospace then here's some info: Bigelow Aerospace, owned and operated by Robert Bigelow, has been working an expandable module as a space structure that has a flexible outer shell, allowing conservation of diameter for launch and weight overall. Once in orbit, the module gets inflated to allow for greater work, play and living area for astronauts. Bigelow has successfully launched two of its Genesis units that demonstrated the technology and feasibility of its expandable space module technology. As I previously said Bigelow is now working on securing the Atlas V rocket to blast its modules to space. The Atlas V is a reliable, if costly, rocket and I wouldn't doubt that Bigelow soon starts looking for more cost effective methods of launch. During the operational phase, which is currently planned to begin in 2012, up to 12 missions per year are envisioned for the orbital station, increasing as demand dictates. I imagine that this project has quite a bit of potential for income and scientific research. It gives private companies, organizations, individuals, and governments that have the money, the ability to rent their own space station for extended time periods. It should be quite interesting as this progresses, though only time will tell.
Also don't forget to check out this weeks Carnival of Space at the Orbiting Frog. And especially don't miss next weeks Carnival because I will be head Carny and New Frontiers will be hosting it.
Image source: Wikipedia.com, Space.com
Source: Bigelow Press Release