Space for Business: Bezos' Blue Origin Unveils Plan to Launch Commercial Space Station
As companies like Elon Musk's Space X and Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin continue to launch untrained individuals into low Earth orbit, the commercialization of space, and space travel, has become an attractive endeavor for many corporations, including those contracted for the International Space Station (ISS).
Bezo's Blue Origin and Sierra Space announced in a Monday news release that they, and at least four other companies, have embarked on a plan to develop 'Orbital Reef': a low Earth orbit space station that will be commercially developed, owned, and operated.
The issuance detailed
that operators of the "mixed-use business park" plan to minimize cost and complexity for both traditional space operators and novice arrivals through the incorporation of reusable space transportation and modern, 'smart' design configured with advanced automation logistics.
Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering, and Arizona State University will assist in building Orbital Reef, and have been assigned a number of tasks.
Boeing will deal primarily with aspects related to the science module, station operations, maintenance engineering, and the Starliner crew spacecraft - the ferry that will transport passengers to the station. The US-based corporation is notably NASA's prime contractor for the ISS.
"This is exciting for us because this project does not duplicate the immensely successful and enduring ISS, but rather goes a step further to fulfill a unique position in low Earth orbit where it can serve a diverse array of companies and host non-specialist crews," said John Mulholland, Boeing VP and program manager for the ISS."
Redwire has been tasked with providing microgravity research capabilities, deployable solar arrays, and the necessary payload operations.
Genesis Engineering Solutions has been tapped to develop a single-person spacecraft designed for tourist excursions and routine operations.
The planned spacecraft were referenced in Monday remarks by Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin's senior vice president of Advanced Development Programs.
"Orbital Reef provides world-class technical accommodations, and has a futuristic space architecture with all the features we should have in space: big volumes, big hatches, a sky canopy of huge windows facing Earth, a central thoroughfare between functional modules, and a safe, easy way to do excursions outside," Sherwood told attendees of the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai.
Lastly, Arizona State University will provide research advisory services and tackle matters of public outreach. The release highlighted that the school heads the Orbital Reef University Advisory Council, a global consortium of more than a dozen universities committed to a number of initiatives, including the advisement of novice researchers, stimulating research, and STEM
Sherwood noted that NASA and other space agencies have laid the groundwork for the commercialization of space through the development of orbital space flight and space habitation.
"We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalize space flight," Sherwood said in a quoted statement accompanying the release. "A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness."
NASA has expressed interest in becoming an "anchor tenant" for the commercially owned and operated space station.
The Orbital Reef is slated to be operational by the end of 2030.