Category Archives: orbital

Russians Launch White Elephant

Being an engineer, I’m as happy to applaud endeavour and practical success as am to grimace at the possibilites for messy public disaster.

Take the new Inflatable Space Hotel that was launched today aboard a converted Russian ICBM. While the concept of a zero-G bouncy castle can only appeal, I for one will not be among the first to sample the embarrassment of a vacuum toilet or the endless waits strapped to a wall while they eject all the disorientation-induced hurl1 into space.

Those of you who enjoy some sort of recreational solo sport (yes, thank you!) that requires sharing the playing surface with other, slower people, will doubtless not be looking forward to being clobbered by out-of-control younger-brothers who have been flung through the void, spinning and throwing up with gay abandon.

Even if you’re happy to spend some time on the company of others whose brains are trying (and failing) to deal with the concept of “There is no up”, there are other considerations. “I thought her unsinkable and I based my opinion on the best expert advice.” Thus spake Phillip Franklin, White Star Line Vice President on the “unsinkability” of RMS Titanic.

Flash forward to today, when hotel tycoon Robert Bigelow said in reference to his extraterrestrial blimp, “It’s extremely durable and resistant to any puncture or penetration”. Note the word “resistant”. No doubt Mr Bigelow is aware of the parallels. I doubt that anything inflatible will be able to withstand a micrometeorite going 15km/s. I wonder how far and fast the escaping air at breathable pressures could propel an inflatible hotel before supplies were exhausted. I bet that’s not a question that’s come up. Be fun to find out though.

In launch terms, it’s a more constructive use of ICBMs than MAD. Who knowsI what the Americans have done with theirs (probably kept them) but at least the Russians are using their Cold War Communist hardware to embrace Capitalism and kick Uncle Sam’s ass in the process.

I wonder what the Russians think of putting a bouncy castle in orbit. They’d probably be perfectly happy with an earth-based one. I get the impression that putting things in orbit is as old-hat and commonplace to the average Russian as waiting in line, while the West bangs on about it at length. I bet they have a good old laugh at the all the requests they get. “Hey Yuri, look at this. Some American идиот wants to put a beach ball into orbit. Do we let him?”

Anyway, cool idea, go for it, hope very hard it doesn’t go bang with a load of kids / nuns inside….

1 See “vomit”.