NASA Selects Companies to Develop Business Destinations in Space


WASHINGTON, Dec 3 2021 / PRNewswire / – NASA has signed agreements with three U.S. companies to develop designs for space stations and other commercial destinations in space. The agreements are part of the agency’s efforts to enable a strong, US-led trade economy in low earth orbit.

The estimated total grant amount for the three funded Space Act agreements is $ 415.6 million. The awarded companies are:

  • Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, for $ 130 million
  • Nanoracks LLC, of Houston for $ 160 million
  • Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, for $ 125.6 million

NASA seeks to maintain an uninterrupted US presence in low earth orbit by moving from the International Space Station to other platforms. These awards will stimulate the development by the US private sector of commercial and independent space stations that will be available to both government and private sector customers.

“Building on our successful initiatives of partnering with private industry to deliver cargo, and now our NASA astronauts, to the International Space Station, NASA is once again leading the way in commercializing space activities.” , said the NASA administrator. Bill Nelson. “With commercial companies now providing transportation to low earth orbit, we are partnering with US companies to develop space destinations where people can visit, live and work, allowing NASA to continue to chart a course in space for the benefit of humanity. while promoting commercial activity in space. “

Representatives from NASA and selected companies will host a conference call today, December 2, To 5 p.m. EST. Media wishing to participate in the call should confirm their attendance at Josh finch by e-mail to: [email protected] through 4:30 p.m. EST.

The audio will be streamed live on:

Participants include:

  • Phil McAlister, Director, Commercial Space Flight, NASA Headquarters at Washington
  • Angela Hart, Director of NASA’s Low Earth Orbit Development Commercial Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programs, Blue Origin, and Dr. Janet Kavandi, former NASA astronaut and Sierra Space President
  • Jeffrey Manber, President of Voyager Space International and Space Stations and Chairman of the Board of Nanoracks
  • Rick mastracchio, Director of Business Development for Human Exploration, Northrop Grumman

The awards are the first in a two-phase approach to ensure a seamless transition of International Space Station activity to commercial destinations. During this first phase, private industry, in coordination with NASA, will formulate and design low Earth orbit destination commercial capabilities tailored to the potential needs of government and the private sector. The first phase is expected to continue until 2025.

Blue origin and Sierra Space have teamed up to develop Orbital Reef, a commercially owned and operated space station that will be built in low Earth orbit, which will begin operating in the second half of this decade. Orbital Reef teammates include Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Arizona State University. Orbital Reef’s human-centered space architecture is designed to be a “mixed-use space activity park” that provides the essential infrastructure necessary to support all types of human spaceflight activities in low earth orbit and can be adapted to serve new markets.

The station’s shared infrastructure will serve the exclusive needs of a variety of US and international users, tenants and visitors, including those representing research, industry, government and the commercial sector. Features like reusable space transportation and advanced automation can minimize costs and complexity to empower the greatest number of users. Housing, vehicle mooring ports, and utilities can all be adapted to growing market demand.

Nanoracks’ low Earth orbit commercial destination, in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, is called “Starlab”. Starlab is slated to launch in 2027 on a single flight as a continuously crewed commercial space station dedicated to cutting-edge research, promoting commercial industrial activity, and continuing the United States’ presence and leadership in low earth orbit. Starlab is designed for four astronauts and will have a power, volume and payload capacity equivalent to the International Space Station.

Starlab will host the George Washington Carver Science Park comprising four main operational departments – a biology lab, a plant habitation lab, a physical and materials science research lab, and an open workspace – to meet the needs of researchers. and commercial customers for commercial space activities. The station will be built with flexible growth in mind, with interfaces both internal and external to the spacecraft to allow Nanoracks to extend the architecture as new sources of demand are identified and new markets. emerging.

Northrop Grumman’s design for a modular low-earth orbit commercial destination draws on decades of experience supporting NASA, defense and commercial programs. The design builds on flight-proven elements, such as the Cygnus spacecraft which delivers cargo to the International Space Station, to provide a core module for extended capabilities including science, tourism, industrial experimentation and the construction of infrastructure beyond the initial design.

The multiple mooring ports will allow future expansion to support analog crew habitats, laboratories, crew airlocks, and artificial gravity capable facilities, in support of multiple customers. This Space Act agreement will enable Northrop Grumman to provide a detailed marketing, operations and capabilities plan, as well as space station requirements, mission success criteria, risk assessments, key technical requirements and market analysis and preliminary design activities. The Northrop Grumman team includes Dynetics, with more partners to be announced.

For the second phase of NASA’s approach to a transition to commercial low Earth orbit destinations, the agency intends to certify that NASA crew members use commercial low Earth orbit destinations with from these and other potential entrants, and ultimately to purchase services from crewed destination providers to use when available. This strategy will provide the services the government needs at a lower cost, allowing NASA to focus on its Artemis missions to the moon and to Mars while continuing to use low earth orbit as a training and testing ground. .

NASA estimates that the agency’s future needs in low Earth orbit will require continued accommodation and training for at least two crew members, as well as the ability to support a national laboratory in orbit and the completion of approximately 200 surveys. per year to support human research, technological demonstrations, biological and physical sciences.

Developing commercial destinations in low earth orbit is part of NASA’s larger efforts to build a strong economy in low earth orbit, including supporting commercial activity and enabling the first private astronaut mission to the space station. In addition to these new awards, NASA has selected Axiom Space in january 2020 design and develop commercial modules to hang on the station. NASA and Axiom recently completed the preliminary design review of two modules as well as the critical design review of the primary structure of the module.

By moving to a model where the commercial industry owns and operates the assets in low earth orbit and where NASA is one of many clients, the agency can save on living and labor costs in low earth orbit and focus on innovation and exploration of the Moon and Mars through NASA’s Artemis missions.

Find more information on NASA’s efforts to strengthen a low-earth orbit economy at:



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