Out There

Genesis I Vehicle Performance Update

By Jay Ingham
Deputy Program Manager
Bigelow Aerospace

Since Genesis I launched on July 12, 2006, we have been monitoring all of the on-board systems many times a day. After almost seven months of flight, we have been very pleased with both the initial operational success as well as the continued reliability of virtually all of the on-board systems. We have had minor issues arise from time to time, but mostly all of them have been able to be resolved with minor software fixes or adjustments.

  • We have seen no measurable degradation of the power-generating capability of all eight solar arrays.
  • Our original orbit of 346 miles altitude has degraded to 340 miles. So, at this point, we are predicting that the vehicle will maintain its orbit for well over 10 years before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Genesis I
  • Our battery has not shown any signs of a loss of capacity, but from our use and recharge cycles we are currently calculating a life span of seven-plus years. This may very well be extended when the rate of use is decreased as we get more vehicles into orbit and our time is split between them.
  • Our pressure levels internal to the vehicle have maintained exceptionally well, achieving lower leak rates than those that we have tested on the ground.
  • Structurally, Genesis I is in top-top shape. From pressure data, we can determine that the expandable envelope and pressurized structure remains perfectly intact; and from the numerous exterior photographs we download daily, we cannot detect any degradation of the orbital debris shield or discoloration due to the elevated UV exposure we see in space.
  • Internal to the vehicle, we have had some problems with a computer that controlled several of the cameras, but all of the interior lights and fans and all of the other systems internal to the spacecraft remain in perfect working condition.
  • This vehicle is passively thermal controlled, so the interior air temperature varies with the quantity of electronics we have operational at any point and the amount of sun exposure the vehicle sees. The internal air temperature has varied from ~40oF with very minimal electronics in operation when we are in a maximum eclipse cycle, to ~90oF with lots of electronics on when we are in the full sunlight portion of our orbit.
  • Our avionics and communications to and from the vehicle have operated very well. We communicate with Genesis I several times a day (a frequency which is ever growing as we build new ground stations around the world.) There was a very severe radiation event (caused by solar activity) on or about the 14th of December of last year. We did suffer some minor communications problems during and after this period that required us to use our backup systems. This problem was remedied with a reset of our primary system. It was very encouraging to us that we could survive such an event and recover from it gracefully.




(Added on 02/13/2007)