NASA wants to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with a new station by 2030. Among others, she commissioned Jeff Bezos New Space company Blue Origin with the construction. The first plans for the “Orbital Reef” are already available.
The International Space Station (ISS) has been in orbit since the launch of its first component on November 20, 1998. The ISS is a cooperation of different states. Several nations share the use of the space station. Each country can use the station for research expeditions for about six months.
But after about 25 years in operation, it is slowly but surely time to send the ISS into retirement. For example, the US space agency NASA, which pays a large part of the operating costs, wants to build a new station by 2030. And that’s exactly where Jeff Bezos could play an important role.
Orbital Reef: Research, Tourism and Films
The Amazon boss and founder of the commercial space company “Blue Origin” has presented corresponding plans for a new station called “Orbital Reef”.
According to information from Recode, Orbital Reef is to become a kind of business park that will be available to research institutes as well as private individuals and companies. According to Plans by Blue Origin, the new station will be slightly smaller than the current ISS and offer space for ten people.
They want to equip the station with office desks, computers, laboratories, 3D printers and other gardens. The premises should then be able to be rented, not only from NASA, but also for space tourism or film productions.
In the promotional film for Orbital Reef, Blue Origin speaks of an “ecosystem” with a “village atmosphere” where different people and organizations in space can come together to explore and discover space.
$130 million for Orbital Reef
NASA seems to be convinced of the plans. The agency has already awarded Blue Origin and the partner companies involved $130 million to build the station.
For the space agency, handing over to a commercial operator such as Blue Origin would mean great cost savings.
CURRENTLY, NASA invests around one billion US dollars per year in the preservation of the ISS. If this money could be saved, the organization could put more resources into other projects, such as lunar and Mars missions.
But commercial space travel is already involved in this area as well. However, it is not always friendly, because it is about a lot of money.
Battle for space
For example, NASA awarded a contract to Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX for the construction of a landing technology for its Artemis lunar mission. Jeff Bezos then went to court. Even with rights to the satellite Internet, the two richest men in the world are engaged in a fierce Battle of the Stars.
The competition is not surprising. After all, companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin sense the next big deal in space. Those who position themselves here early and prominently could benefit greatly in the long term. SpaceX is already a big step ahead of its competitors with successful NASA missions.
The space station mission is therefore particularly important for Blue Origin. But obviously NASA wants to play it safe here. In addition to Blue Origin, the authority has commissioned several other companies with the construction.
The hope is that at least one company can implement the project. Because the construction is quite complex. After all, not only does a new station have to be built, but also the ISS must first be dismantled and the parts transported back to Earth.
NASA has good reason to rely on several companies. After all, apart from SpaceX, almost all commercial space companies have to prove what they can really do in space.