Bezos' Blue Origin announces plans for private space station

Blue Origin has provided an artist's drawing of Orbital Reef's core module.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space company, announced Monday that it will launch a space station capable of housing up to 10 people. This announcement comes as the race for commercialization heats up.

"Orbital Reef," a joint venture between Sierra Space, a commercial space company, and Boeing, was described as a mixed use business park in space that will support microgravity research. It also has support from Arizona State University.

Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin executive, stated that NASA and other agencies have been developing orbital space flight and habitation for over 60 years. This has set us up to launch commercial businesses in the next decade.

"We will increase access, lower cost, and provide all services and amenities required to normalize spaceflight."

NASA is looking at the future of the International Space Station after 2020. This private outpost is just one of many planned.

A contract has been signed by the space agency with Axiom for the development of a space station. It will dock initially with the ISS, and then become free-flying.

Space services company Nanoracks announced last week that a space station will be in operation by 2027. It was in collaboration with Voyager Space, Lockheed Martin and Lockheed Martin.

Blue Origin released a fact sheet stating that Orbital Reef will fly at 500 km (310 miles) altitude, slightly higher than the ISS. Residents will experience 32 sunrises/sunsets per day.

It can support 10 people in a volume 830 cubic metres (30,000 cubic feet) in futuristic modules with large windows.

Although the ISS was built in 2011, it has been a symbol for US-Russian space cooperation. However, Moscow recently questioned the future of this partnership.

It is currently safe up to 2028, and Bill Nelson, the new administrator, has stated that he hopes it can last until 2030. NASA will then want the commercial sector in place.

Blue Origin can currently fly to suborbital space using its New Shepard rocket. This rocket was launched earlier this month and blasted William Shatner, Star Trek's actor, beyond the atmosphere.

Other planned projects include New Glenn which can carry cargo and people into space, as well as a lunar lander. However, it lost its Moon contract to SpaceX and is now suing NASA to reverse that decision.

Blue Origin was founded by Bezos in 2000. He is the second-richest man in the world, thanks to Amazon e-commerce giant. His goal is to one day build floating space colonies with artificial gravitation where millions can live and work, thereby removing pollution from the Earth.

These colonies would be built on the design of Gerard O'Neill at Princeton's physics department. They would include counter-rotating cylindricals that provide artificial gravity.

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2021 AFP