The International Space Station (ISS) is aging slowly but surely. While temporary repairs have succeeded in extending the life of the ISS, the time for its decommissioning may soon arrive.
On December 3, NASA announced the names of three space companies to develop space stations, or “commercial destinations in space.”
The total estimated amount for research and development funding is $ 415.6 million. The companies are Blue Origin ($ 130 million), Nanoracks ($ 160 million), Northrop Grumman ($ 125.6 million).
In its press release, NASA explained how the move aims to ensure “an uninterrupted US presence in low earth orbit by moving from the International Space Station to other platforms.”
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According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the goal is to develop space destinations where people can visit, live and work.
NASA’s two-phase approach
NASA has developed a two-phase approach for the transition of the ISS to commercial destinations. In the first phase, private actors and NASA will collaborate to create low Earth orbit destinations for government and private sector needs. This phase will extend at least until 2025.
For example, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space are currently building Orbital Reef, which will be a commercial space station expected to operate in the second half of this decade. Orbit Reef station would be a “mixed-use business park”.
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Nanorocks worked with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin to develop its Starlab space station, with a launch date of 2027.
Northrop Grumman is also building a modular commercial space station in low Earth orbit. The company builds on the knowledge gained from partnering with NASA over the years.
The second phase of NASA’s space station development programs would focus on certifying NASA crew members to use these destinations when needed, allowing the space agency to focus on space missions on Mars and the Moon.
What do you think of NASA’s ambitious plans for private companies in the United States? We may be able to visit space stations by the start of the next decade. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. To learn more about the world of tech and science, keep reading Indiatimes.com.
Margetta, R. (2021, December 2). NASA Selects Companies to Develop Business Destinations in Space. Nasa.