The Blue Origin space station will arrive by 2030

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and many other partners have announced plans to build an alien trade outpost called Orbital Reef, which is expected to be operational by the end of the current decade. Orbital Reef’s imaginary clients include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially be completed, but will eventually replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is scheduled to be retired in 2028-2030.

“For over 60 years, NASA and other space agencies have been developing orbital spaceflight and space dwellings, preparing us for the commercial takeoff of this decade,” said Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programs for Blue Origin.

“We will expand access, reduce costs and provide all the services and equipment necessary to standardize spaceflight,” he added. “A vibrant business ecosystem will thrive in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainment and global awareness.”

credits: Blue Origin
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The announcement follows in a few days that of Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, who unveiled plans for their own private station, dubbed Starlab. Houston-based company Axiom Space previously announced plans to launch modules on the ISS from 2024, eventually detaching them and using them as a commercial free-flight outpost.

The plan is to put Orbital Reef into service by the end of the decade, in a “basic configuration” consisting of a power system, a central module, a LIFE habitat, a module scientist and a Genesis spaceship. This initial outpost will feature 830 cubic meters of pressurized volume and can accommodate up to 10 people, Sherwood said at a press conference today at the International Astronautics Conference in Dubai.

For comparison, the ISS has 916 cubic meters of internal volume, which is equivalent to that of a Boeing 747. The four-person Starlab will have a habitat module of 340 cubic meters in volume. Orbital Reef will also continue to grow over time, with many other modules possibly connected, if all goes as planned. And the members of the project team want it to serve many clients around the world.

NASA aims to encourage the development of Orbital Reef, Starlab, Axiom Station and other commercial outposts through Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD), a two-step program modeled on the agency’s successful strategy for make private deliveries of cargo and crew to the ISS up to and running.