Blue Origin wants to build its commercial space station
Steph Deschamps / October 26, 2021
Blue Origin and Sierra Space announced Monday that they want to build a private space station for up to 10 people, with the goal of it being operational in the second half of the decade.
Named Orbital reef, it is described as a business park designed to accommodate multiple customers. Experienced space agencies, high-tech consortia, nations without a space program, media and travel agencies, subsidized entrepreneurs and inventors, forward-looking investors, all have a place on board, the companies listed in a statement. The new project is yet another sign of the frantic race to commercialize low Earth orbit. Blue Origin, which has billionaire Jeff Bezos as its boss, already has operations in space tourism with its New Shepard rocket. For more than six decades, Nasa and other space agencies have developed orbital flight and habitat in space, setting us up for private ventures to take off this decade, Brent Sherwood, head at Blue Origin, said in a statement. We will expand access, drive down costs.
Several companies will be partners in the project, including Boeing, which will be in charge of the scientific module and will provide the means of transport to the station: the Starliner capsule, which is still in the test phase. The station will evolve at an altitude of 500 km - a little higher than the current International Space Station (ISS) - and will measure 830 m3, almost as much as the ISS. The architecture of the station will be human-centered, with large windows, promised Blue Origin and Sierra Space.
The latter company, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation, has designed an inflatable habitation module. Other companies are planning to build their own space station. Axiom Space has long announced plans to build its own, which will first be attached to the ISS before becoming independent. And last week, Nanoracks, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space, announced that it wants to build a commercial station called Starlab, which should be operational by 2027.
The future of the ISS is now officially assured until 2024 and, from a technical point of view, Nasa has confirmed that it will be able to operate until 2028. The boss of the American space agency, Bill Nelson, has declared himself in favor of its extension until 2030. But NASA strongly encourages the privatization of the low earth orbit, hoping to make savings and to be able to concentrate on more distant exploration missions.