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Blue Origin Wants to Go Higher, Plans to Build Its Own Free-Flying Space Station

Less than three weeks ago, we saw the renowned "Star Trek" actor William Shatner and three other passengers take off on a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket to the edge of space. This marked the second time the company has successfully launched a crewed mission beyond our skies. Now, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has revealed an even more ambitious plan: to build its own private station that will function as a "business park" in space.
Blue Origin announces plans to build a commercial space station 7 photos
Blue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbitBlue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbitBlue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbitBlue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbitBlue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbitBlue Origin announces plans to build a private space station in low Earth orbit
It's going to be called Orbital Reef, and it won't be a solo effort. Instead, Blue Origin is teaming up with Sierra Space, a subsidiary of the Sierra Nevada Corporation. The company is mostly known for its Dream Chaser spaceplane designed to carry cargo, and possibly people, to and from the ISS and its inflatable LIFE habitat, which will be used for the new space station.

Orbital Reef is backed by industry giants such as Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University. The structure will circle Earth, about 500 km (311 miles) up, and it will feature several habitation zones and research modules.

The space station could also serve commercial purposes, including media, entertainment, and tourism. Once operational, it will be able to host 10 people at a time in a space almost as big as the one from the ISS.

Blue Origin says that Sierra's aforementioned Dream Chaser spaceplane will provide the transportation to and from the Orbital Reef, Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, and the company's future New Glenn launch system.

But none of these spacecraft has carried people to space. The Dream Chaser is expected to have its maiden launch next year, and Starliner is facing technical issues that are plaguing its development. As for the New Glenn rocket, Blue Origin announced that its first launch has been delayed and will take place no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022.

Orbital Reef is expected to start operating in the second half of this decade. We'll have yet to see if Blue Origin will achieve its ambitious goal.

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 Download attachment: BLUE ORIGIN AND SIERRA SPACE DEVELOPING COMMERCIAL SPACE STATION (PDF)

 
 
 
 
 

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