TECHNOLOGY

Jeff Bezos’ orbital reef space station could replace ISS


After more than two decades in orbit, NASA is preparing to retire to the International Space Station. The habitable satellite is only allowed to operate until 2024, and while space station funding is expected to increase until 2028, NASA plans to dismantle the ISS and find a replacement by the end of the decade. Q Jeff Bezos.

Billionaire’s spaceflight company, Blue Origin, has unveiled 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 is slightly smaller than the ISS and will house 10 people. The design includes desk space, computer, laboratory, a garden and 3D printer. The goal, the agency said, is to bring the “mixed use business park” concept into orbit and lease office space to interested parties, including government agencies, researchers, tourism agencies and even movie production crews.

Blue Origin’s plan is predicted on the notion that ISS is coming to an end, with NASA still figuring out exactly how to remove it from orbit. Although space stations have been instrumental in space exploration, Brent Sherwood, senior vice president at Blue Origin, argued in a recent op-ed that private companies now have the power to take over much of low-Earth orbit or LEO’s growing economy. Blue Origin is even building a space tug, a transport vehicle that carries cargo between different orbits, which can be used Part of the rescue from the ISS And include them in the system of orbital reefs.

NASA doesn’t care about the corporate takeover of low-Earth orbit. The agency’s first space station, Skylab, was in orbit for just a few months before NASA allowed the car to enter and decompose in the atmosphere. The space agency has been weighing in for several years to defend the ISS, which is full of aging hardware, and has already removed it. Up to $ 400 million to fund new, privately built and operated space stations through the commercial LEO Destination Program. Finally, NASA hopes 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 a year.

“It’s a technology that’s more than 20 years old at the moment. When you expose that infrastructure to radiation, solar weather … things are going to break down, “Wendy Whitman, a professor at the US Air Force’s School of Air and Space Studies, told Kobe Record. “Having these commercial space stations would be a way for America to keep their feet in low-Earth orbit as well as focus more on their resources in search of the moon and Mars.”

Meanwhile, NASA is currently focusing on the Artemis program, an ambitious plan to establish a long-term human presence on the moon. The agency wants to send people to the moon for the first time in decades in 2024 and hopes the project will eventually serve as a stepping stone to exploring the future of Mars. Private companies, including Blue Origin, have fought desperately for a role in this prestigious mission, and a lucrative deal to develop particularly important moon landing technology. SpaceX won that deal earlier this year, prompting Bezos’ company to sue NASA and lobby the Senate to reverse the decision. Those efforts have yet to bear fruit, so Bezos now seems to be turning his attention to the economy of low-Earth orbit, which has more customers and less competition than Elon Musk.

But there is reason to believe that the orbital reef project may not be successful in the near future – or at all. Blue Origin has not yet launched humans into orbit, an achievement SpaceX achieved during the Inspiration4 mission last month. Blue Origin has listed its New Glenn reusable launch system and Boeing’s Starliner crew vehicle as key components of the orbital reef plan, but both vehicles have yet to conduct trouble-free space flights.

Blue Origin has released a conceptual rendering of what an orbital reef station might look like.
Courtesy of Blue Origin

Blue Origin is not the only company that wants to replace ISS. About 12 other agencies have already submitted proposals for the space station in NASA’s commercial LEO destination program. Last week, a space agency called Nanorax announced that it was building a space station in partnership with its majority owners, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. At the same time, NASA has already agreed to pay the space company Axiom Space $ 140 million to build at least one module or detachable space station component. Will be linked to the ISS. This module will eventually be cut and connected to several other modules to create a separate, fully functional space station when ISS stops operations. This method is expected to make it easier to transfer the hardware currently in ISS to a new vehicle.

In a statement, a NASA spokesman described the current moment as “a renaissance for human spacecraft.” They added, “As more people fly into space and do more during their spaceflight, it attracts more people to do more activities in low-Earth orbit, and when we started NASA’s commercial crew program 10 years ago 6 reflects the growing market we envisioned “

For NASA, it is also important that at least one of these agencies is successful, and the agency told Record that it could finance up to four of the proposals. After all, time is running out in ISS, where errors and outdated technology and equipment are common. Unless private companies take steps to build an alternative, the U.S. government risks a future where there is a human presence on the moon and on Earth and nowhere in the middle.

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