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Blue Origin and Partners Announce Plans for Private Space Station

Blue Origin and Partners Announce Plans for Private Space Station

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.

I have a few thoughts on the design.

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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UnCivilServant | October 26, 2021 at 3:18 pm

If I recall, Blue Origin hasn’t even gotten a capsule into orbit yet. Shouldn’t you manage that first?

2smartforlibs | October 26, 2021 at 3:18 pm

Some small picture guy was complaining about all the government money spent on space this AM. I wanted to tell him we paid so left-wing corporate America didn’t have to do the R and D.

    Idonttweet in reply to 2smartforlibs. | October 26, 2021 at 4:59 pm

    Those kind of people floored me back in the day when they’d complain about all the money being “spent in space instead of addressing problems here on Earth” like there were things being contracted out to Marvin the Martian or something. Where did they think the money was being spent and who did they think was doing the work?

    daniel_ream in reply to 2smartforlibs. | October 26, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    Very few things amuse me more than soi-disant conservatives who studiously ignore the multi-billion dollar boondoggle that is the space program because space is kewl or some bollocks.

    So are race cars. But I don’t want the government wasting fantastic amounts of my money buying them and driving them around somewhere I’ll never be allowed to go.

      stevewhitemd in reply to daniel_ream. | October 27, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      We spend far more money on various social welfare programs that are a complete waste of time (e.g., the “homeless crisis”). If we can’t spend money on space ships and race cars, perhaps we should also stop spending money on the homeless. You know, equity…

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to 2smartforlibs. | October 26, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Corporate America, whether left or not, did, but with taxpayer money.

Pretty bold talk. Blue Origins has had exactly TWO manned flights – suborbital, to be exact. They seem to be better at suing the competition (SpaceX) than producing working spacecraft.

Blue Origins has a ways to go before they can think about putting up a space station.

    Antifundamentalist in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | October 26, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    My bet is that they are setting themselves up to hold a monopoly on private enterprises in Earth Orbit and beyond, whether they can actually make use of it or not. Democrats will let them have it in exchange for campaign donations and other considerations.

Good. May they all get stuck up there.

I would like to announce my plan for a 100-acre fantasy theme park modelled after HBO’s Game of Thrones. Made entirely out of cheese.

It’s about as feasible.

All they have to do is get there…the aliens do the rest.

Will people who visit this new space station be known as Orbital Reefers?

Blue Origin’s partner Sierra Nevada Corp. was contracted in 2011 to build the Dream Chaser space plane and has yet to get it up into space. We won’t see this space station in space for a long, long time.

On a more serious note, space junk is getting to be a real problem. I’m sure this won’t help.

1)When we announced that we were going to send a man to the Moon, we had flown exactly one sub-orbital flight. You need a vision of where you’re going to go before you can go there.
2)I am thrilled that businessmen are looking at putting up a space station. I hope they succeed — I believe there is limitless potential for industry and exploration of space.
3)The money spent on the space program has been much more than repaid by technology we use every day. Ever used a cell phone, a PC, a laptop, Velcro? Most of those would be bigger, slower, less capable without the space program and other boosts to scientific progress.
And, I would expect, that progress is faster when it’s private industry and not the federal government who is in charge.

I always believed the future would be like Star Trek-TOS, and Jim Kirk. Now it’s Star Trek-Deep Space Nine, and Quark!