Envisioned as a business park in space, the station would complement or replace the aging International Space Station.
Former Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos announced plans for his firm Blue Origin to run the world’s first private space station.
The station is called the Orbital Reef, which would serve as a space business park and a regular destination for space tourists.
Blue Origin will partner with a Sierra Nevada Corp. subsidiary called Sierra Space, along with Boeing, Redwire Space and Genesis Engineer to make the space station happen.
While not giving a date for when the Orbital Reef would be operational, participants said it will create business and research opportunities and should be attractive to industrial, international and commercial customers.
“For over 60 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,” Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of advanced development programs, said in a statement.
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The plans are to ultimately replace or complement the International Space Station.
The influx of private space station proposals comes as NASA seeks a replacement for the 20-year-old, $100 billion laboratory in space, which is showing signs of its age. Whether any of the low-Earth orbit concepts will be ready to house astronauts by the time funding for the International Space Station lapses around 2030 is unclear, and depends largely on the funding NASA is able to get from Congress.
The agency plans to allocate up to $400 million to private space companies to kick-start construction, eventually partnering with private operators the way it now relies on companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX to get cargo and astronauts to and from the I.S.S.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is a go on a Halloween launch on one of its Dragon capsules, in which the toilets have had a few tweaks.
That tweak was prompted by an issue experienced on SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, which sent four private citizens on a three-day trip to orbit last month. After that capsule, named Resilience, returned home, inspections revealed that a tube hooked up to a toilet storage tank had popped loose during flight.
This “allowed urine to not go into the storage tank but, essentially, to go into the fan system,” Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said during Monday’s news conference. But the leak didn’t markedly affect Inspiration4, he added.
“We didn’t really even notice it; the crew didn’t notice it until we got back” to Earth, Gerstenmaier said.
Still, SpaceX decided to revamp the toilet system on the Crew-3 capsule, known as Endurance, going with an all-welded structure to eliminate tube pop-offs, Gerstenmaier said. NASA needs to give the redesign a final thumbs-up before Crew-3 can fly, but that is expected to happen in the coming days.
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