Science & Technology

Blue Origin’s team wins a $130M share of NASA funding for commercial space stations

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space enterprise and its companions have gained a $130 million award to jump-start the design of their Orbital Reef commercial space station, which may take form throughout the waning years of the Worldwide Space Station.

Two different groups additionally gained NASA funding for their design efforts: Houston-based Nanoracks will get $160 million for its Starlab idea, whereas Northrop Grumman will get $125.6 million for its proposal.

Blue Origin — which is headquartered in Kent, Wash. — is partnering with Sierra Space in addition to Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Options and Arizona State College on Orbital Reef.

The venture is envisioned as an expandable enterprise park, with Boeing’s Starliner space taxi and Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser space aircraft transporting passengers to and from low Earth orbit for tourism, analysis, in-space manufacturing initiatives and extra. NASA may presumably use Orbital Reef or the opposite commercial space platforms as a manner station and coaching facility for missions past Earth orbit.

“We’re happy that NASA helps the event of Orbital Reef, a revolutionary method to creating Earth orbit extra accessible to various clients and industries,” Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin’s senior vice chairman of superior improvement applications, said today in a news release.

“Along with assembly the ISS companions’ wants, the Orbital Reef mixed-use space enterprise park will supply decreased prices and complexity, turnkey companies, and provoking space structure to help any enterprise,” Sherwood mentioned. “Nobody is aware of how commercial LEO markets will develop, however we intend to seek out out.”

NASA’s help for commercial LEO outposts follows the mannequin set for resupplying the International Space Station, transporting crews of astronauts, and developing lunar landers for future moon missions.

“With commercial corporations now offering transportation to low-Earth orbit in place, we’re partnering with U.S. corporations to develop the space locations the place folks can go to, stay, and work, enabling NASA to proceed forging a path in space for the profit of humanity whereas fostering commercial exercise in space,” NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson said in a news release.

Blue Origin and Colorado-based Sierra Space are the principal companions within the Orbital Reef venture. Boeing will present its experience in space station improvement and administration, in addition to Starliner transport companies. Redwire Space will deal with analysis payload improvement and operations in addition to large-scale deployable constructions.

Genesis Engineering will develop its Single Particular person Spacecraft — principally, a “2001”-style pod geared up with robotic instruments —for routine operations and vacationer excursions. And Arizona State College will lead a world consortium specializing in analysis companies and public outreach.

The 2 different groups plan comparable divisions of labor: Northrop Grumman will construct on its expertise with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft in addition to with its on-orbit robotic servicing spacecraft and the moon-orbiting habitation module it’s building for NASA. Northrop Grumman’s team consists of Dynetics and different companions to be named later.

Nanoracks, in the meantime, is partnering with Voyager Space (which is almost all shareholder in Nanoracks) and Lockheed Martin. Nanoracks will draw upon its expertise in payload logistics and deployment, Lockheed Martin will present a massive inflatable habitat and different {hardware}, and Voyager will capitalize on its experience in funding technique and operational integration.

The awards introduced in the present day will help design and improvement efforts by way of 2025. That may set the stage for follow-up awards from NASA, aimed toward certifying commercial space stations and procuring payload and crew internet hosting companies.

Space company officers count on to proceed supporting the Worldwide Space Station till no less than 2028, however they acknowledge that the orbital outpost — which has been in existence since 1998 — might should be retired and maybe damaged up not lengthy afterward. That’s the explanation for the present deal with next-generation space stations.

Final 12 months, NASA struck a $140 million deal with Houston-based Axiom Space to offer a commercial habitation module for the Worldwide Space Station — a module that Axiom says could possibly be split off to serve as the basis for a free-flying space station sooner or later.

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