New York (CNN Business) – Blue Origin, the rocket and space tourism company founded by Jeff Bezos, just proposed a huge new space station called “Orbital Reef” that could be used to carry out science experiments, vacation getaways. , and potentially even fabrication in space.
The company plans to work alongside tech startup Sierra Space to make the space station a reality, and Boeing plans to design a research module at the station, although there are no guarantees that the companies will be able to make it happen. These types of projects remain exorbitantly expensive and risky, likely costing tens of billions of dollars and requiring multiple safe launches before a human can float on board.
Blue Origin and Sierra Space plan to co-finance the space station, although executives declined to give an estimate of the total cost during a press conference Monday. They added that they hope to hire NASA as their primary tenant, although how that partnership might come to fruition is not very clear.
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NASA has launched calls for proposals for commercial space stations as the 20-year-old International Space Station, which has hosted crews of professional astronauts from the United States, Russia and more than a hundred other countries, draws near to the end. of its useful life. Several other companies, including Texas startups Nanoracks and Axiom, have made similar proposals.
Blue Origin expects Orbital Reef to be operational by the end of the 2020s, although it will have a long way to go for that to happen. So far, the company has only performed a few crewed suborbital flights, like the ones NASA accomplished in the early 1960s, and has yet to put a spacecraft, let alone a person, into orbit. A space station would be a great leap.
The New Glenn, the Blue Origin-built rocket that is expected to be powerful and large enough to put the largest parts of the space station into orbit, is not yet ready to operate and its maiden flight was recently delayed to at least late 2022.
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Spacecraft that could be used to transport people to and from the space station are also under development. Boeing’s Starliner, for example, has suffered numerous mishaps and won’t make a crucial test flight until mid-2022.
Orbital Reef is planned to house up to 10 people and will have roughly the same internal volume as the International Space Station.
Other companies participated in Monday’s announcement about Orbital Reef, mentioning proposed uses for various companies and products in the space they are developing. A company called Genesis is also working on developing a medium that allows astronauts to take spacewalks without suits, placing people in vacuum-sealed capsules with robotic arms so that they can one day work outside the space station.
A company called Redwire is also working on manufacturing in space through 3D printing, which could one day make it easier to produce new goods in space instead of having to go through the arduous and expensive process of manufacturing in the world. Earth and then launch them into space.
In terms of operations within the space station, companies around the world, from industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to materials science, could use it to conduct research in microgravity, as they do on the ISS.
NASA has long known the benefits of researching in space. In the microgravity environment, physical and biological phenomena are not affected by the pull of the Earth. Thus, by conducting the same experiment on the station and on Earth, scientists can gain a better fundamental understanding of how something works.
– Kristin Fisher contributed to this report.
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