NASA has awarded $415.6 million to Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos, Northrop Grumman Corp and Nanorax, to develop privately owned and operated commercial space stations.
This comes as part of NASA’s efforts to take advantage of the capabilities of private companies with the aim of enabling a US-led commercial economy in low Earth orbit, with the possibility of the International Space Station being out of service at the end of the current decade.
And NASA awarded Blue Origin $130 million to contribute to the development of the Orbital Reef space station, which it announced about five weeks ago, in partnership with Sierra Space and Boeing. Blue Origin aims to launch the spacecraft in the second half of this decade.
Blue Origin sees Orbital Reef as a hub for commercial industries such as manufacturing, entertainment, sports, gaming and adventure travel. It also seeks to be the headquarters of manned and commercial missions.
Houston-based Nanorax got the bulk of the money allocated by NASA, receiving $160 million to develop the Starlab space station it is building with Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space.
NASA also awarded $125.6 million to defense and space contractor Northrop Grumman.
“Our station will enable … sustainable commercial missions where NASA does not bear all the costs but participates as one of many clients,” said Steve Crane, the company’s vice president for civil and commercial space operations.