Blue Origin, the space tourism company owned by billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, plans to launch a commercial space station into low Earth orbit by the end of the decade.
Known as “Orbital Reef,” the station will be a “mixed-use business park” in space, providing research, commerce and tourism services, Blue Origin said in a statement Monday.
With a volume as large as that of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), the Orbital Reef will accommodate up to 10 people.
Blue Origin will partner with Sierra Space and Boeing to build the space station outpost. The company will also be supported by Arizona State University, Redwire Space and Genesis Engineering Solutions.
The 32,000 square foot station will fly at an altitude of 500 km (310 miles) and would be ideal for filmmaking or research. It would include a “space hotel”, where residents can enjoy 32 sunrises and sunsets per day.
Although Blue Origin has not disclosed the cost of building the space station, the project is likely to receive significant funding from Bezos. The founder of Amazon has incurred $ 1 billion in annual expenses for Blue Origin.
“A vibrant business ecosystem will develop in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainment and global awareness,” Brent Sherwood, director of Blue Origin, said in a statement.
Last week, space company Nanoracks announced plans to launch a space station called Starlab by 2027. Nanoracks will partner with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin on the project.
The demand for new space facilities comes as NASA seeks to replace its 20-year-old International Space Station that is in need of repairs. NASA spends up to $ 4 billion a year on the installation. Fearing its outdated equipment could trigger a major incident, Russian officials have warned its cosmonauts could leave the aging outpost by 2025.
Earlier this year, NASA announced it would award $ 400 million in private contracts to space companies to replace the ISS, the BBC reported. According to The Wall Street Journal, the agency has already received around ten proposals for station concepts.
Blue Origin has also submitted a proposal for this opportunity, but would like to pursue its space station plans regardless of NASA’s decision, Sherwood said.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)