KENT, Wash. — Blue Origin and Sierra Space announced Monday they plan to develop a commercial space station in low Earth orbit.
The space station will be called Orbital Reef and the companies say it will start operating in the second half of this decade.
The companies say Orbital Reef will be designed to open new markets in space by providing anyone with the opportunity to establish their own address in orbit.
Blue Origin and Sierra Space promise that the space station will offer research, industrial, international, and commercial customers services they need, including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation, and operations, like on-board crew.
“For over 60 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, Senior Vice President of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin in a statement. “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.”
The International Space Station (ISS) already exists in low Earth orbit, but officials say the purpose of the Orbital Reef is different. The companies describe the Orbital Reef as a “mixed-use business park” in space.
“This is exciting for us because this project does not duplicate the immensely successful and enduring ISS, but rather goes a step further to fulfill a unique position in low Earth orbit where it can serve a diverse array of companies and host non-specialist crews,” said John Mulholland, Boeing VP and program manager for the International Space Station. “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.”
Blue Origin is owned by former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The company says it’s working to make it possible for millions of people to live and work in space to benefit Earth. They want to increase access to space through reusable rockets.
Blue Origin is also in the space tourism market. Its latest launch had “Star Trek” actor William Shatner on board.