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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin unveils the personal house station Ocean Reef

A rendering of the space station “Ocean Reef” in orbit.

Blue origin

WASHINGTON – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin on Monday unveiled his plan for a private space station called Orbital Reef, which will be built in partnership with several space companies and is expected to be deployed between 2025 and 2030.

Blue Origin describes the orbital reef station, which could be habitable for up to 10 people, as a “mixed-use business park” in space – and also as “exotic hospitality” for space tourists.

Ocean Reef is designed to have almost as much habitable volume as the International Space Station.

The company’s primary partner for the station is Sierra Space, a subsidiary of aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation, which also includes Boeing, Redwire Space and Genesis Engineering.

“We are only just beginning to understand the tremendous impact microgravity research, development and manufacturing can have on not only universe exploration and discovery, but also improving life on earth,” said Mike Gold, Executive Vice President of Redwire, opposite CNBC.

Redwire Space’s shares were temporarily held on the New York Stock Exchange after rising following the announcement. The stock rose as much as 40% in trading from its previous closing price of $ 12.16.

Blue Origin will provide the “utility systems” and “core modules” of the space station and plans to launch its New Glenn rocket Ocean Reef.

Sierra Space is contributing its LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment; essentially an inflatable space station module) and plans to use its Dream Chaser spacecraft to transport cargo and crew to and from the station.

Redwire Space, which went public in September, will conduct the station’s payload operations and build operational structures. Redwire also plans to use Orbital Reef for microgravity research, development and manufacturing.

Boeing will build Ocean Reef’s science-based module, operate the station and perform maintenance. The aerospace giant also plans to use its Starliner capsule to transport crew and cargo to the station.

Genesis Engineering will bring in its “Single Person Spacecraft” system, which the company is calling as an alternative to a spacesuit.

In a conference call with reporters, executives from the team’s companies declined to reveal how much each of them would like to invest in Orbital Reef.

Blue Origin Vice President Brent Sherwood said the team will not give a “specific number” on how much the Ocean Reef space station will cost, adding that the financial numbers are commercially sensitive.

Bezos’ company has been considering building a space station for more than a year, as CNBC reported, and earlier this month added a number of job postings for its Orbital Destinations team.

Bezos’ vision: living and working in space

Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos speaks during an event about Blue Origin’s space exploration plans in Washington, the United States, on May 9, 2019.

Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters

Orbital Reef is right at the center of Bezos’ vision for Blue Origin to get to where “Millions of people live and work in space to help the earth,” particularly by moving “earth-polluting industries into the world.” Space”.

Bezos personally increased his stake in Blue Origin after stepping down as CEO of Amazon this summer. While the company has had success with its New Shepard suborbital missile, having flown two successful crewed flights to date, Blue Origin has been scrutinized due to rising employee turnover and allegations of safety concerns and a “toxic” work culture for former employees.

Blue Origin previously partnered with other major space companies and worked with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to build a manned lunar lander for NASA’s HLS program.

However, while the Blue Origin-led team received a $ 579 million award for early development, it lost the next $ 2.9 billion contract with SpaceX from Elon Musk earlier this year. Blue Origin has since taken NASA to court and filed a lawsuit against the space agency to overturn the award for lunar lander.

The space station race is heating up

Blue Origin intends to compete for one of NASA’s anticipated contracts for the Commercial LEO Destinations program, but Bezos’ company is not alone. NASA’s director of commercial space, Phil McAlister, told CNBC last month that the program had received “about a dozen proposals” from a variety of companies for contracts.

With NASA planning to retire the International Space Station by the end of the decade, the CLD program represents an attempt to turn to private companies for new space stations – with the space agency expecting to generate more than $ 1 billion annually as a result. Save dollars.

“We are in a second golden age in space exploration and development,” said Redwire’s Gold.

Last week, another private space station was announced by a separate team of companies: Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin are building a station called Starlab, which is slated to be operational by 2027.

Starlab is to be manned by up to four astronauts, which corresponds to about a third of the volume of the ISS.

Concept drawing of a space station “Starlab”

Nanoracks

NASA has already begun funding a company’s ambitions under a separate contract from the CLD program by awarding Axiom Space $ 140 million. Axiom plans to build modules that will be connected to the ISS. When the ISS retired, Axiom would then dismantle its modules and turn it into a free-flying space station.

An illustration of three of the company’s modules connected to the International Space Station.

Axiom space

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