Jeff Bezos ’Orbital Reef space station could replace the ISS

After more than two decades in orbit, NASA is already preparing to retire from the International Space Station. The residential satellite will only have permission to operate until 2024, and while it is likely that funding for the space station will be extended until 2028, NASA plans to decommission the ISS and find a replacement by the end of the decade. Try Jeff Bezos.

The billionaire’s spaceflight company, Blue Origin, has released their proposal for a new, commercial space station called Orbital Reef. With the help of several other companies, including Sierra Space and Boeing, Blue Origin plans to build a satellite that little by little than the ISS and houses up to 10 people. The design includes desk space, computers, laboratories, a garden, and 3D printers. The goal, the company says, is to bring “mixed use business park“concept of orbit and office leases to interested parties, including government agencies, researchers, tourism companies, and even film production crews.

The Blue Origin plan is based on the idea that the end is coming for the ISS, which NASA still is. thinking how to remove orbit. While space stations have helped explore space, Blue Origin senior vice president Brent Sherwood argued a recent op-ed that private companies now have the ability to take most of the growing economy into low-Earth orbit, or LEO. Blue Origin has even built a space tug, a transportation vehicle that moves cargo between different orbits, which is reported to be available in salvage parts from the ISS and include them in Orbital Reef systems.

NASA has not considered corporate takeover in low-Earth orbit. The agency’s first space station, SkyLab, has only been in orbit for a few months before NASA landed the car and rotted in the atmosphere. The space agency is already there weighing defunding on the ISS, full of aging hardware, for several years, and already isolated up to $ 400 million to fund new, privately built and operated space stations through it LEO commercial destinations program. Eventually, NASA hopes it can send astronauts to these stations instead of paying to keep the ISS afloat. Overall, the plan will save the government more than $ 1 billion per year.

“It’s technology that’s over 20 years old at this point. If you expose that radiation infrastructure, solar weather … things will fall apart,” said Wendy Whitman Cobb, a U.S. Air Force professor School of Air and Space Studies, tells Recode. “Having these commercial space stations could be a way for America to keep their foot in Earth’s lower orbit while focusing more on their Moon exploration resources. and Mars. ”

Meanwhile, NASA is now focusing on program by Artemis, an ambitious plan to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon. The agency aims to send people to the Moon for the first time in decades in 2024, and hopes the project will eventually serve as a stepping stone in future Mars exploration. Private companies, including Blue Origin, are desperately fighting for a role in this prestigious mission, and especially a lucrative contract to develop vital moon landing technology. SpaceX won that contract earlier this year, prompted Bezos ’company to complaint to NASA and lobby of the Senate to reverse the decision. Those efforts have yet to bear fruit, so Bezos now seems to have turned his attention to the under-Earth orbit economy, where there are more customers and less competition from Elon Musk.

But there is reason to believe that the Orbital Reef project may not be successful in the foreseeable future – or at all. Blue Origin has yet to launch humans into orbit, something SpaceX did last month the Inspiration4 mission. Blue Origin too lists the New Glenn reusable launch system and The Boeing Starliner crew vehicle as an integral part of the Orbital Reef plan, but the two vehicles have yet to perform trouble -free space flight.

Blue Origin has released concepts that interpret what the Orbital Reef station looks like.
Courtesy of Blue Origin

Blue Origin isn’t the only company vying to replace the ISS. About 12 more companies have already submitted space station proposals to NASA’s Commercial LEO Destinations program. Last week, a space company called Nanoracks Office has partnered that it is also developing a space station, in partnership with its majority owner Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. At the same time, NASA has already agreed to pay space company Axiom Space $ 140 million to help build at least one module, or detachable space station component, that is to conjoin with the ISS. That module will eventually be cut off and connected to several other modules to form a separate, fully usable space station when the ISS ceases operations. That way to facilitate the transfer of hardware currently aboard the ISS to a new car.

In a statement, a NASA spokesman described the current occasion as “a renaissance for human spaceflight.” They added, “While more people will fly in space and do more things during their space flights, it will still attract more people to do more orbit activities in the lower Earth and show up. growing market that we envisioned when we started NASA’s Commercial Crew Program 10 years ago. ”

For NASA, it’s also critical that at least one of these companies is successful, and the agency told Recode it could fund up to four of the proposals. After all, time is running out on the ISS, where malfunctions and ancient technology and equipment common. Without private companies stepping in to build an alternative, the U.S. government risks a future where it has a human presence on the Moon and Earth, and nowhere in between.

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