WASHINGTON – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin announced on Monday its plan for a private space station called “Orbital Reef”, which is to be built in collaboration with several space companies and is expected to be deployed between 2025 and 2030.
Blue Origin describes the Orbital Reef station, which would be habitable for up to 10 people, as a “mixed-use business park” in space – as well as “exotic hospitality” for space tourists.
Orbital Reef is designed to have almost as much habitable volume as the International Space Station.
“We are only just beginning to understand the enormous impact microgravity research, development and manufacturing can have, not just on universe exploration and discovery, but also on improving life on earth,” said Mike Gold, executive vice President of Redwire, opposite CNBC.
Redwire Space’s shares were temporarily held on the New York Stock Exchange after rising following the announcement. The stock rose as much as 40% in trading but gave up most of the gains and ended the day 8% higher at $ 13.14.
A rendering of the space station “Ocean Reef” in orbit.
Blue Origin will provide the “utility systems” and “core modules” of the space station and plans to launch Orbital Reef with its New Glenn rocket.
Sierra Space is contributing its LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment; essentially an inflatable space station module) and plans to use its Dream Chaser spacecraft to transport cargo and crew to and from the station.
Redwire room, which went public in September, will carry out the station’s payload operations and build operational structures. Redwire also plans to use Orbital Reef for microgravity research, development and manufacturing.
Boeing will build Orbital Reef’s science-based module and operate the station and perform maintenance engineering. The aerospace giant also plans to use it his Starliner capsule for the transport of crew and cargo to the station.
Genesis Engineering will bring in its “Single Person Spacecraft” system, which the company is calling as an alternative to a spacesuit.
In a conference call with reporters, executives from the team’s companies declined to reveal how much each of them would like to invest in Orbital Reef.
Blue Origin Vice President Brent Sherwood said the team will not give a “specific number” on how much the Orbital Reef space station will cost, adding that the financial numbers are commercially sensitive.
Bezos’ company has been considering building a space station for more than a year since CNBC previously reported, and added a number of job postings for his Orbital Destinations team earlier this month.
Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos speaks during an event about Blue Origin’s space exploration plans in Washington, the United States, on May 9, 2019.
Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters
Blue Origin intends to compete for one of NASA’s anticipated contracts for the Commercial LEO Destinations program, but Bezos’ company is not alone. NASA’s director of commercial space, Phil McAlister, told CNBC last month that the program had received “about a dozen proposals” from a variety of companies for contracts.
With NASA planning to decommission the International Space Station by the end of the decade, the CLD program represents an attempt to turn to private companies for new space stations – with the space agency expecting to save more than $ 1 billion annually.
“We are in a second golden age in space exploration and development,” said Redwire’s Gold.
Last week, another private space station was announced by a separate team of companies: Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin are building a station called Starlab, which is scheduled to go into operation by 2027.
Starlab is to be manned by up to four astronauts, which corresponds to about a third of the volume of the ISS.
Concept drawing of a space station “Starlab”
NASA has already started funding a company’s ambitions under a separate contract from the CLD program after Axiom Space with $ 140 million. Axiom plans to build modules that will be connected to the ISS. When the ISS retired, Axiom would then dismantle its modules and turn it into a free-flying space station.
An illustration of three of the company’s modules connected to the International Space Station.