Blue Origin unveils plans to build private space station 'business park'

The project hopes to welcome people from diverse professional backgrounds including science, media, finance, tourism and business

Blue Origin unveils plans for a new commercial space station called Orbital Reef. Photo: Blue Origin
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Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has announced plans to build its own commercial space station in low-Earth orbit, which would act as a “mixed-use business park”.

The space tourism company plans to launch the structure, called Orbital Reef, in the second half of this decade.

The announcement was made on Monday and includes a partnership with Sierra Space, Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.

A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low-Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness
Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin

Orbital Reef will be able to host up to 10 people with separate areas for living and carrying out science experiments.

“For over sixty years, Nasa and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade,” said Brent Sherwood, head of advance development programmes for Blue Origin.

“We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalise space flight. A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low-Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments and global awareness.”

The business model involves easy access for customers who could use the space station for different requirements, including researchers, manufacturers and tourists.

The space company is also promising easier access to seasoned space agencies, sovereign nations without space programmes, media and travel companies, funded entrepreneurs, sponsored inventors and investors.

Mike Gold, head of civil space and external affairs at Redwire, said that Orbital Reef represents “the next evolution of commercial space paradigm”.

He added: “The Orbital Reef will carry forward the singular legacy of the International Space Station, supporting innovative microgravity research, development, and manufacturing activities, which will advance fields as diverse as communications and biotechnology.

“The microgravity environment presents an entirely new arena for commercial and scientific development, making Orbital Reef the platform that will launch new technologies and capabilities, dramatically improving life on Earth while enabling humanity’s journey to the stars.”

The announcement comes a week after another private space station was announced by Nanoracks, Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space.

Called the Starlab, it would house up to four astronauts, with plans for the start of operations by 2027.

Blue Origin has been launching suborbital tourist rockets as part of its New Shepard missions.

The company has flown eight people to space so far, including actor William Shatner, who at 90 became the oldest person to travel to space yet.

Updated: December 08, 2021, 1:34 PM