DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Blue Origin and Sierra Space, along with several other corporations and organizations, announced their plans on Oct. 25. Cooperation on the development of a commercial space station was the reason for the announcement.
Announcements for the Development
The industry partnership declared its intention to create Orbital Reef, a modular space station that would be ready to host humans and payloads in the latter half of the 2020s, during a presentation at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress here. This enabled a transition from the International Space Station before its planned end-of-decade demise.
Blue Origin will construct large-diameter core modules and utility systems as part of the cooperation, as well as provide launch services utilizing its New Glenn rocket, which is currently in development. Sierra Space, as the project’s “primary partner,” will contribute to the LIFE inflatable module design. It also has a crewed version of its Dream Chaser cargo spaceplane in the works.
“We call this team’s structure open vertical integration,” said Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of advanced development initiatives. “At least one, and in some circumstances numerous, members of this team can deliver any component of the end-to-end service for the commercial LEO destination.”
Joining hands for a crucial step
“We’re joining a team where we can both provide value and turn this into a successful business,” said John Mulholland, Boeing vice president and ISS programme manager. “It puts us in a position to be successful in the long run.”
Mike Gold, executive vice president for civil space and external relations at Redwire, said the group of firms came together “organically.” Redwire has separately worked with Blue Origin, Boeing, and Sierra Space. “It was fantastic to take the next step and integrate these existing partnerships, all in pursuit of the Orbital Reef concept.”
Designing for Efficiency
“By grouping together energy masts and additional core modules, and attaching modules on the sides, the architecture is well-designed to be infinitely extensible,” he said. “It may grow in length, which offers additional utility capacity, docking ports, and other features.”
With 100 kilowatts of electricity and a volume slightly more than 90% that of the International Space Station, the baseline version could still fit up to ten people. “It’s comparable in scale to a station, and then it’s set up for limitless expansion after that.”
Orbital Reef is a partner in Starlab, a commercial space station concept announced by Nanoracks, Voyager Space Holdings, and Lockheed Martin on October 21. Axiom Space is working on a commercial module for the International Space Station that will serve as the foundation for a future commercial space station.