Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin pursues private space station


Jeff Bezos’ space company has said it will help build a new space station, as part of a growing bet by entrepreneurs and businesses that many future orbital facilities will be privately owned and operated.

Blue Origin LLC said on Monday it was working with a unit of Sierra Nevada Corp., Boeing Co.

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and others to create a station which should become operational in its initial form in the second half of this decade. The planned facility, called Orbital Reef, will aim to generate revenue from government agencies and private sector customers, including entertainment companies and manufacturers, executives said at a briefing.

The company comprising Blue Origin is not the only one aiming for an installation in space. Last week, space company Nanoracks said it was working with Voyager Space, its majority owner, and Lockheed Martin Corp.

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to develop a station called Starlab. Axiom Space Inc. is also working on its own facility.

Pressure from companies to create their own facilities comes as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prepares to shut down the International Space Station. The facility costs NASA up to $ 4 billion a year and will be structurally sound until 2028, although it can be used beyond this year, agency officials said.

Artist’s impression of the Nanoracks commercial space station, Starlab.


Nanoracks / Voyager Space / Lockheed Martin / Cover Images / Zuma Press

Earlier this year, NASA announced plans to award up to four contracts of at least $ 300 million each to support different concepts of in-orbit commercial destinations. In a contract document related to the effort, NASA said it envisions a future where the agency is one client among many at private stations. A spokeswoman said the agency had received around a dozen proposals for station concepts.

Blue Origin’s space station company has submitted a proposal for the opportunity, but plans to move forward with its installation regardless of NASA’s decision, said Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of programs. advanced development of the company.

Although the market for in-orbit scientific research is understood, the levels of demand for space facilities among other potential users are not yet clear, Mr Sherwood said. The group will try to find clients among media companies, manufacturers and space tourists, among others.

“It’s time to test these other markets,” Mr. Sherwood said.

Nanoracks chief executive Jeffrey Manber said he believes there will be six to ten space stations focused on different market niches in the coming years. “We know there is a market,” he said in a recent interview.

Starlab, the facility that Nanoracks is developing with Lockheed Martin, will combine space hardware with Nanoracks’ expertise in operating a research park that can attract customers and ensure the success of the facility, Mr. Eat.

The companies behind StarLab expect the station, which will include a scientific research and manufacturing lab, to begin initial operations by 2027.

Write to Micah Maidenberg at [email protected]

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