Commercial Space Stations Announced!

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We are entering the next chapter of the space economy: Private Space Stations.

NASA recently announced the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destination project to support private space station development. And it didn’t take long for the commercial space sector to answer.

Starlab

Nanoracks, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, has formed a team to develop Starlab – the first-ever, free flying, commercial space station.

As you may remember, we’ve recently reported on Nanoracks and their agricultural research in space. Nanoracks will bring more than a decade of space station experience, as they are the global leader in commercial ISS usage.

Commercial Space Stations Announced!
Jeffrey Manber

CEO Jeffrey Manber had this to say: “NASA as a customer has unleashed this extraordinary revolution in space transportation… Building on the success that NASA had with cargo, building on the success of commercial crew, one can anticipate that with the markets interested in space, we’re going to see the same thing with smaller private space stations.”

Much like the International Space Station, Starlab will be a continuously-crewed platform to conduct research, ensure a continued US presence in low earth orbit, and support worldwide governmental and commercial space exploration.

A few exciting features included in Starlab are a large, inflatable habitat designed by Lockheed Martin, a robotic arm for servicing cargo and payloads, and a laboratory system capable of research, science and manufacturing.

Starlab is expected to be operational by 2027.

But you know, as the saying goes, where there’s competition, there’s Bezos.

Orbital Reef

Blue Origin has also just announced plans for their own commercial space station, making it clear that Space Tourism isn’t their only focus.

The project is called Orbital Reef, and aims to create a collaborative space to conduct research, develop products, and allow tourists to experience microgravity in low earth orbit.

Orbital Reef will be developed, owned and operated by Blue Origin and Sierra Space, a subsidiary of the Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Sierra Space is most known for Dream Chaser – a reusable space plane designed to carry cargo and passengers to the ISS.

Orbital Reef is also backed by Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University. It’s a party.

The project will be an ever-expanding collaborative effort, and aims to create a “business park” in space that’s operational in the second half of the 2020s.

In a press release, Blue Origin said that the destination “will offer research, industrial, international, and commercial customers the cost competitive end-to-end services they need including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation, and operations including onboard crew.” Anyone who wants to “establish their own address in orbit” can do so.

Orbital Reef is expected to be habitable for up to 10 people and feature multiple ports to connect and dock modules and spacecrafts.

Starliner and Dream Chaser are the planned vehicles to carry cargo and passengers to the space station.

Brent Sherwood

Brent Sherwood, SVP of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin said, “We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalize space flight. A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness.”

I’ve gotta say, this is an incredible ecosystem we’re seeing unfold, and we at Space Channel can’t wait for the collaboration and advancements that will be made possible through these partnerships.

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