Blue Origin has presented Orbital Reef, a commercial space station the size of the International Space Station that will be available in the second half of this decade.
Private participation promoted by billionaires like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is opening a new era in space research. If Space X is the best-known and most advanced aerospace firm, the Amazon founder’s Blue Origin follows in its footsteps and has big ambitions too.
After taking the mythical Captain Kirk from Star Trek and two executives who paid a good amount of cash to lead the way of space tourism, Blue Origin thinks of higher goals.
What Orbital Reef will be like
Blue Origin has announced plans to build a space station. It will be located in low Earth orbit and its volume will be similar to that of the current ISS. The installation will work as a «mixed-use business park»In space, for commercial, research and tourism purposes.
While space tourism will be a large part of the Orbital Reef occupation, the potential for research and manufacturing space-based is arguably much more exciting for the rest of us here on Earth. The results of research in space could help increase the effectiveness of everyday products or lead to breakthroughs we haven’t even considered. It has already happened on Russian or NASA missions in the past.
Blue Origin has partnered with a good number of companies to bring the project to fruition, including Sierra Space and additional backing from Boeing, Genesis Engineering Solutions, Redwire Space and Arizona State University that will lead a global consortium of universities that will also play a key role in the project.
Sierra Space, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation, is developing the Dream Chaser, a space plane that will be able to carry cargo and eventually crew members, to and from low Earth orbit. They say this plane could land on runways around the world. Another participant, Genesis Engineering Solutions, will be responsible for the single-person spacecraft used for outside operations and sightseeing excursions.
When Orbital Reef opens its doors in the second half of this decade, it will have almost the same volume as the International Space Station. The basic configuration will have separate scientific and habitable zones, with support for up to 10 people. Blue Origin has other projects underway, such as reaching the Moon in 2023 or the “Kuiper” program, Amazon’s space Internet with 3,000 satellites in the purest style of Space X’s Starlink. We’ll see if they can meet these ambitious goals.