There’s a whole new world of economic development opportunity just outside of Earth’s reach but humans need a way to spend extended amounts of time in space to unlock it. Orbital Reef is working toward that and just passed another major milestone.
The space station, which is being designed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space, this week completed its System Definition Review (SDR) with NASA. The companies said it means they’ve demonstrated to NASA that Orbital Reef is both feasible and achievable.
Orbital Reef has been imagined as a commercial space station that will allow anyone to set up shop in low-earth orbit and take advantage of microgravity manufacturing and research facilities. The company will not only provide crucial transportation to and from the edge of space but handle the logistics of living and working in space. Besides offering room for working in space, Orbital Reef could also serve as a tourist destination.
Beyond Blue Origin and Sierra Space, the Orbital Reef design squad will also tap the expertise of Amazon Web Services, Boeing, and other academic and commercial partners. Boeing will provide crew and cargo transportation via its Starliner spacecraft and will also handle maintenance once Orbital Reef is up and running. Genesis Engineering will provide a single-person spacecraft for suitless space exploration. And Redwire Space will help facilitate in-space manufacturing.
Orbital Reef isn’t expected to be operational until 2027 but it’s already exciting to imagine what will be possible once it’s off the ground.