On October 25, a group of organizations and companies headed by Sierra Space and Blue Origin revealed plans to collaborate on the creation of the commercial space station.
The industry consortium announced its intention to establish Orbital Reef, which is a modular space station which would be capable of hosting payloads and crews in the latter part of the 2020s, enabling for a shift from International Space Station (ISS) before its anticipated retirement at the close of the decade, during a presentation at 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here.
Blue Origin will construct large-diameter core modules and also the utility systems as part of the cooperation and offer launch services utilizing its New Glenn rocket, which is currently in development. Sierra Space will donate an inflatable module named LIFE as well as its Dream Chaser freight spaceplane, with a crewed model also planned, as a “major partner” in the initiative.
On Orbital Reef, several different firms and organizations will take part. Boeing will supply a science module and the CST-100 Starliner crew vehicle and oversee station operations, engineering as well as maintenance. Redwire Space will handle microgravity research and manufacture and payload activities and deployable structures. A university partnership led by Arizona State University will handle research and outreach, while Genesis Engineering Solutions is going to offer a “Single Person Spacecraft” pod it is building.
“We call this team’s structure open vertical integration,” said Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin’s senior vice president in charge of the advanced development initiatives. “At least one, and in some circumstances numerous, members of this team can deliver any component of the end-to-end operation for the commercial LEO destination.” On the other hand, other companies might join the project by supplying their modules to be incorporated into the station using industry standards, he said.
“We’re joining a team where we can both provide value and turn this into a successful business,” stated John Mulholland, who works as the Boeing vice president as well as ISS program manager. “It definitely puts us in a position to be successful in the long run.”
Mike Gold, who works as the executive vice president in charge of the civil space and external relations at Redwire, said the group of firms came together “organically.” Redwire has separately worked with Boeing, Blue Origin, and Sierra Space. “It was fantastic to take the next step and integrate these existing partnerships, all in support of the Orbital Reef concept.”
A video shown during the occasion showed a station with the long core module and multiple modules on opposite sides and a succession of solar arrays. It has both the Dream Chaser and the Starliner spaceship docked to it.