Blue Origin might have sent William Shatner to the edge of space and brought him back in one piece but the company has yet to launch a vehicle into orbit or deliver its promised BE-4 engine to NASA.
This hasn’t stopped Jeff Bezos’ space company from announcing plans to put a space station, called Orbital Reef, in low-Earth orbit sometime in the second half of this decade.
Blue Origin reaches for the stars
The point? The company hopes to offer “…research, industrial, international, and commercial customers the cost competitive end-to-end services they need including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation, and operations including onboard crew.” Basically, Orbital Reef is a private space station maintained by Blue Origin that other companies can just send experiments and staff up to — for a price, of course.
The project is a partnership between Blue Origin, a company called Sierra Space, as well as other players in the space… er… space, including Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and the Arizona State University. The facility is described as a “mixed use business park” in space, and it’ll apparently have space for up to ten people at a time.
The various companies involved will have different responsibilities. Sierra Space will create various modules and will supply its Dream Chaser spaceplane for landings. Boeing will handle the science module, science operations, maintenance and will supply its Starliner craft for crew liftoffs. Genesis Engineering has perhaps the coolest job — a “Single Person Spacecraft for routine operations and tourist excursions.”
Blue Origin will handle utility systems, the core modules for the station and will also supply its New Glenn launch system to Orbital Reef. Of course, it’s got a little way to go before it gets there. Low Earth orbits start at 160km above the planet’s surface and stretch out to 1,000km above the planet — so far, the company’s New Shepard has made it to around the 90km mark. New Glenn… has yet to show what it can really do.