NASA backs Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and others with over $400 million funding to build commercial space stations

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NASA backs Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and others with over $400 million funding to build commercial space stations
Northrop Grumman’s free flyer commercial destination design.NASA
  • NASA has granted a total of $415.6 million to three companies including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
  • These companies will develop commercial space stations slated to launch by the later half of this decade.
  • NASA’s plan is to create a robust low-Earth orbit economy with opportunities for both government and private sectors.
NASA has big plans for commercial expansion in space as it has granted a total amount of $415.6 million to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, aerospace company Nanoracks, and defence contractor Northrop Grumman to design space stations and commercial destinations in space. NASA hopes to find a replacement for the International Space Station (ISS) that has only till the end of the decade to retire.

NASA plans for a “robust low-Earth orbit economy” includes coordination with private industry to formulate and design commercial destination capabilities that will work not only for potential government but private sector needs as well.

NASA backs Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and others with over $400 million funding to build commercial space stations
Orbital Reef - the first commercial space station in low-Earth orbit is expected to start operating in the second half of this decade.NASA

Orbital Reef

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The first commercial space station in low-Earth orbit is expected to start operating in the second half of this decade. It will be called ‘Orbital Reef’ and it will be developed by Blue Origin and Sierra Space. Orbital Reef will be a “mixed-use space business park” that will support all types of human spaceflight activity in low-Earth orbit. It will feature reusable space transportation and advanced automation that is expected to help minimise the cost and complexity of users onboard the space station.

NASA backs Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and others with over $400 million funding to build commercial space stations
Starlab, from Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin.NASA

Starlab

Nanoracks is collaborating with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin to develop a commercial low-Earth orbit destination called ‘Starlab’ that is slated to launch in 2027. It will be a continuously crewed, commercial space station which will be dedicated to “advanced research and commercial industrial activity and ensuring continued U.S. presence and leadership in low-Earth orbit.”

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Starlab could be the replacement for the ISS as it is designed to house four astronauts, and it will have power, volume, and a payload capability to the ISS.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is also developing a modular, commercial destination for low-Earth orbit. It will provide a base module for extended capabilities such as science and industrial experimentation. It will feature multiple docking ports for future expansion to support crew analogue habitats, laboratories, crew airlocks, and facilities capable of artificial gravity.

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