Nanoracks, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman developing plans
With the International Space Station set go offline in 2030, NASA is getting to work on replacing it with a station in low Earth orbit. To get plans underway, the space agency has awarded grants totaling more than $415 million to Nanoracks ($160 million), Blue Origin ($130 million), and Northrop Grumman ($125.6 million) to put their proposals for commercial stations into motion, Tech Crunch reports.
Having a new station operational before the ISS closes is a prime target of NASA.
“If there is no habitable commercial destination in low Earth orbit after the ISS is decommissioned, NASA will be unable to conduct microgravity health research and technology demonstrations needed for long-duration human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars, significantly increasing the risk of — or delaying — those missions,” the Office of Inspector General said in a report.
Working with Boeing and Sierra Space, Blue Origin hopes to launch its Orbital Reef by 2027. Nanoracks, working with Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space, has not specified a date for its Starlab. Nor has Northrop Grumman for its unnamed station. The first phase of NASA’s plan will go through 2025, with development of designs for the low Earth orbit stations.
NASA wants to certify at least one station for human use at that time, with one or more stations being up functional by 2028, allowing time to transition from the ISS being the main hub of human activity to space to the new low Earth orbit stations, which will serve as bases for future space exploration.