Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos and crew float around in capsule

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The “business park” in space will host up to 10 people at a time, offering an out-of-this-world opportunity for filmmakers, scientists and space tourists to visit. Blue Origin made the unexpected announcement on Monday, just two weeks after launching Star Trek legend William Shatner into suborbital space. The space tourism company is now looking to expand its services with the Orbital Reef space station, which could launch before the end of the 2020s.

The venture marks a partnership between the Amazon founder’s space tourism company and Sierra Space and is being supported by Boeing and Arizona State University.

Boeing is already working with NASA on the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which is set to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

At present, the ISS and China’s Tiangong space station are the only two human outposts in space.

Blue Origin is looking to normalise commercial spaceflight and has joined the likes of SpaceX and Virgin Galactic in offering unforgettable trips off-planet.

Brent Sherwood, Senior Vice President of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin, said: “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.

“We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalize space flight.

“A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness.”

However, Orbital Reef is only one of many proposed space stations being mulled over by the world’s space agency’s and entrepreneurs.

Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos launches into space on New Shepard rocket

The Texas startup Axiom Space has unveiled plans to launch a space hotel to the ISS, and has been granted permission by NASA to dock to the orbital laboratory.

Plans have also been drafted for the Von Braun Space Station by Gateway Foundation.

The ISS is also nearing the end of its tenure after spending more than 20 years in space.

NASA is reportedly considering its options for a new space station once the ISS is decommissioned and Russia is looking to go at it alone as well.

According to Blue Origin, Orbital Reef will circle the planet at an altitude of 310 miles (500km), which is higher than the ISS.

With room for up to 10 people at a time, the space station will be smaller than the ISS with a volume of some 830 cubic meters (30,000 cubic feet).

The “unique destination” will offer services to industry, science and commercial customers.

Blue Origin expects it will become operational in the second half of the decade.

Dr Janet Kavandi, former three-time NASA astronaut and Sierra Space president, said: “Sierra Space is thrilled to partner with Blue Origin and provide the Dream Chaser spaceplane, the LIFE module and additional space technologies to open up space for commercial research, manufacturing, and tourism.

“As a former NASA astronaut, I’ve been waiting for the moment where working and living in space is accessible to more people worldwide, and that moment has arrived.”

John Mulholland, Boeing VP and program manager for the International Space Station, added: “This is exciting for us because this project does not duplicate the immensely successful and enduring ISS, but rather goes a step further to fulfil a unique position in low Earth orbit where it can serve a diverse array of companies and host non-specialist crews.

“It calls for the same kind of expertise we used to first design and then build the International Space Station and the same skills we employ every day to operate, maintain and sustain the ISS.”

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