Blue Origin, Boeing to establish 'business park' in low-Earth orbit
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin has unveiled plans to build a "space park" that would be launched into low Earth orbit. To enable this, it is collaborating with industry leaders, including Boeing, Sierra Space, and others, to build a space station that could "replace or complement" the International Space Station (ISS) that is nearing the end of its service life. Here's more.
Orbital Reef is backed by several established space industry players
Reuters reported that Blue Origin plans to build a commercial space station dubbed "Orbital Reef." It will be launched in the second half of this decade. To enable this large-scale project, Bezos's company will partner with Sierra Space, a spaceflight wing of defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. The project will also be backed by Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University.
Project can catalyze privatization of established human presence in space
Blue Origin and Sierra Space clarified that Orbital Reef is expected to serve as a "mixed-use business park" that would provide the requisite infrastructure for scaling economic activity in space. The official statement said, "Seasoned space agencies, high-tech consortia, sovereign nations without space programs, media and travel companies, funded entrepreneurs and sponsored inventors, and future-minded investors all have a place on Orbital Reef."
Blue Origin advertising Orbital Reef as a filmmaking destination too
BBC reported that Orbital Reef would be a 32,000 square-foot outpost in low Earth orbit. Blue Origin reportedly said the space station would provide customers with ideal locations for "filmmaking in microgravity", "conducting cutting-edge research," and could also include a "space hotel". Meanwhile, Blue Origin and Sierra Space refused to divulge an estimate of the associated construction costs for Orbital Reef.
Meanwhile, NASA is seeking proposals to replace the aging ISS
The announcement of plans for Orbital Reef seems well-timed. The 20-year old ISS now constantly needs repair and updates. Previously, Russia's cosmonauts cautioned that they could leave the ISS by 2025 over fears that outdated equipment could trigger unfortunate incidents. NASA responded in 2020 and announced plans to award $400 million in private contracts to companies that could help replace the ISS.
Orbital Reef's development is probably funded by Bezos himself
While there's no concrete information yet, we suspect the Orbital Reef project is being bankrolled largely by Bezos. To recall, the billionaire committed to spending $1 billion each year on Blue Origin. However, we believe it's unlikely NASA would partner with Blue Origin for replacing the ISS following the recent safety concerns and sexism and harassment allegations leveled against Blue Origin by its employees.