Summary: Blue Origin thinks all kinds of companies will want some space in space.
Original author and publication date: Rebecca Heilweil – October 27. 2021
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Who will control the control the future of space exploration? Will it be a good idea to leave space in the hands of a corporation?
From the article:
After more than two decades in orbit, NASA is preparing to retire the International Space Station. The habitable satellite only has permission to operate until 2024, and while it’s likely that the space station’s funding could be extended until 2028, NASA plans to decommission the ISS and find a replacement by the end of the decade. Cue Jeff Bezos.
The billionaire’s spaceflight company, Blue Origin, has released its proposal for a new, commercial space station called Orbital Reef. With the help of several other companies, including Sierra Space and Boeing, Blue Origin plans to build a satellite that’s slightly smaller than the ISS and houses up to 10 people. The design includes desk space, computers, laboratories, a garden, and 3D printers.
The goal, the company says, is to bring the “mixed use business park” concept into orbit and lease out office space to interested parties, including government agencies, researchers, tourism companies, and even movie production crews.
Blue Origin’s plan is predicated on the idea that the end is coming for the ISS, which NASA is still figuring out how exactly to remove from orbit.
While space stations have been helpful for space exploration, Blue Origin senior vice president Brent Sherwood argued in a recent op-ed that private companies now have the capabilities to take over much of the burgeoning economy in low-Earth orbit, or LEO. Blue Origin is even building a space tug, a transport vehicle that moves cargo between different orbits, that could reportedly be used to salvage parts from the ISS and incorporate them into Orbital Reef’s systems.
NASA doesn’t mind the corporate takeover of low-Earth orbit. The agency’s first space station, SkyLab, was only in orbit for a few months before NASA let the vehicle descend and decompose into the atmosphere. The space agency has been weighing defunding the ISS, which is full of aging hardware, for several years, and has already set aside up to $400 million to fund new, privately built and operated space stations through its Commercial LEO Destinations program. Eventually, NASA hopes that it can send its astronauts to these stations instead of paying to maintain the ISS. Overall, the plan could save the government more than $1 billion every year.