Now, a private space station

Jeff Bezos, his Blue Origin and Sierra Space are beginning to make space another commercial hub


By Scien Tist

While India is developing basic issues of how to develop private commercial airfields, in the US of A, things have moved so far that Amazon supremo and billionaire Jeff Bezos, also owner of space company Blue Origin has just announced its plan for a private space station called the “Orbital Reef”. All of it will be floating around Earth, like the International Space Station does. The announcement came on October 26.

 The company will build the space station in partnership with multiple space companies and should be commissioned between 2025 and 2030.

What will this private space station offer? According to Blue Origin, Orbital Reef station will inhabit up to 10 people and will be a mixed-use business park in space that would have the capability to give exotic hospitality for space tourists. It is expected, of course, that buy that time space tourism would have become normal activity among those who will be able to afford it.

If anything, this will be the beginning of realisation of human space aspirations, as have been made common in sci-fi movies. At least, the humble beginnings of that.

The entire space station, Orbital Reef, is expected to be launched by its New Glenn rocket. It will also provide the space station’s utility systems and core modules.

While there will be enough opportunity at this station for scientific projects, this also has a business model in development. According to Blue Origin executive Brent Sherwood quoted by a news agency report, as published in the media: “For over sixty years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade. We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalise space flight.”

The partners involved in Orbital Reef are commercial space company Sierra Space, with Boeing and Arizona State University. The companies collaborating with Blue Origin for the private space station include LIFE habitat (Large Integrated Flexible Environment; essentially an inflatable space station module) which plans to use its Dream Chaser spacecraft to transport cargo and crew to-and-from the station. Redwire Space will run the station’s payload operations and will build deployable structures.

It also plans to use Orbital Reef for microgravity research, development and manufacturing. Boeing will build the Reef’s science-focused module to run the station’s operations and to conduct maintenance engineering. The company will also have an alternative to a spacesuit contributed from Genesis Engineering, which is also called the Single Person Spacecraft.

According to a fact sheet released by Blue Origin, Orbital Reef will fly at an altitude of 500 kilometres, slightly above the ISS, with inhabitants experiencing 32 sunrises and sunsets a day. It will support 10 people in a volume of 830 cubic meters, which is approximately 30,000 cubic feet, slightly smaller than the ISS, in futuristic modules with huge windows. The ISS was completed in 2011 and has long been a symbol of US-Russia space cooperation, though Moscow has recently equivocated on the future of the partnership.

It is currently rated as safe until 2028 and new administrator Bill Nelson has said he hopes it will last until 2030, by which time NASA wants the commercial sector to step up and replace it.Blue Origin currently only flies in the suborbital space with its New Shepard rocket, which blasted Star Trek actor William Shatner beyond the atmosphere, earlier this month. Blue Origin has other projects including New Glenn, a rocket that can fly cargo and people into orbit, and a lunar lander.