Space

Blue Origin and Sierra Space to build commercial "business park in space"

Blue Origin and Sierra Space t...
Artist's concept of Orbital Reef
Artist's concept of Orbital Reef
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Artist's concept of Orbital Reef
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Artist's concept of Orbital Reef
Top view of Orbital Reef
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Top view of Orbital Reef
Hydroponics aboard Orbital Reef
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Hydroponics aboard Orbital Reef
Cutaway view of the inflatable module
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Cutaway view of the inflatable module
The Single Person Spacecraft
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The Single Person Spacecraft
Orbital Reef will serve a wide variety of customers
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Orbital Reef will serve a wide variety of customers
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Blue Origin and Sierra Space have revealed plans to place a commercially developed, owned, launched, and operated open-system architecture space station called Orbital Reef into low-Earth orbit between 2025 and 2030.

The retirement of the International Space Station (ISS) will occur before 2030 and the recent discovery of cracks in some of the oldest modules on the station highlight that this deadline is driven less by policy and more by the structure reaching the end of its service life. With this in mind, moves to replace the ISS with a commercial counterpart have shifted into top gear. The latest of these proposals comes from Blue Origin and Sierra Space, who propose to build Orbital Reef with the help of backers Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University.

Hydroponics aboard Orbital Reef
Hydroponics aboard Orbital Reef

The specifications of the satellite haven't been released, which is understandable at this early stage, but details of the basics of the program and who it will serve have been outlined. The large-diameter core modules and the reusable heavy-lift New Glenn launch system that will place them into orbit will be built by Blue Origin. Meanwhile, Sierra Space will provide a Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) module, a node module, and a Dream Chaser spaceplane for ferrying the crew, supplies, and payloads to and from Earth.

Boeing will develop the Science module and will handle station operation and maintenance engineering, while the company's Starliner crew spacecraft will also visit the platform. Redwire Space will work on microgravity research, development, and manufacturing as well as conducting payload operations and deployable structures. Genesis Engineering Solutions is building a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style space pod called the Single Person Spacecraft for outside work and tourist excursions without the need for a spacesuit, and Arizona State University will lead a global consortium of universities for research advisory and public outreach.

The Single Person Spacecraft
The Single Person Spacecraft

Once operational, Orbital Reef will be open to a wide variety of international customers in what is described as a mixed-use business park in space. The station will be used for research, manufacturing, tourism, education, and other tasks, while the partners provide space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation, general operations based on advanced automation, and station crew. The open architecture will allow the Orbital Reef to provide module berths, vehicle ports, utilities, and other items based on customer needs and the growth of the market.

"For over sixty years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade," says Brent Sherwood, Senior Vice President of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin. "We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalize space flight. A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness."

The video below introduces Orbital Reef.

Orbital Reef

Source: Sierra Space

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7 comments
7 comments
Malcolm Jacks
Its all very nice, but surely right now every one should be concentrating on the immediate crisis of Global Warming. With all this technology why not send thousands of automated drome mirrors in low orbit space over the poles to redirect sunlight back out into space, This wont solve the problem of Global Warming, but it may prevent the ice from further meltdown, and give us a little more time to solve the other problems of de-carbonation in our atmosphere. Remember each of these Rockets produce thousands of tons of polluting Carbone.
sally
Well at least Sierra Nevada inspires confidence I guess.
jerryd
The problem is can they get past the smell? Space stations smell terrible of BO, etc.
Ralf Biernacki
@jerryd: Only to new arrivals. Thankfully the human sense of smell adapts quickly, and after spending a couple of days immersed in the odor you just stop noticing it anymore. So long term station personnel are unlikely to be affected---its the space tourists that will be the most impacted by the stink. It will become a part of the unforgettable experience that they've paid so much for---it might even spark a new fashionable trend down here on Earth.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Malcolm Jacks< Bezos and Musk want to comercalize space, and that will happen faster the faster we destroy the Earth, so preventing climate change would be counter productive to their goals.
MattII
@Nelson Hyde Chick
Elon is putting time into other mitigations for climate change.
ReservoirPup
Bezos still has time to open eyes and face the mountain of rubbish he has also helped to make. Till then he'll be dreaming big but in a childish way. The origin was blue but the ending will be dark otherwise.