Blue Origin has big plans for its own space station, a project called Orbital Reef that would be “mixed use business park” and the “premier commercial destination in low Earth orbit.” Sort of like a cruise ship that fits 10 people and doesn’t travel to multiple destinations. It’ll be a little smaller than the International Space Station, Blue Origin says, and would open for business between 2025 and 2030.
Ten people. That’s still higher than eight people, the total number of people Blue Origin has carried just beyond the minimum threshold of space before turning back around after a minute or so. That’s also far less than 1 trillion people, the number Jeff Bezos anticipates will eventually live in tremendous space colonies that he’s described as the off-world structure in Interstellar.
To make it happen, Blue Origin is partnering with various companies — primarily Sierra Space, a space habitat corporation that’ll provide the Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) module, the human living quarters with three floors, beds, a kitchen, and an astro garden, as well as a spaceplane to shuttle passengers and cargo to and from Earth. Blue Origin would handle the launch system, utility systems, and core modules. Other parts are to be provided by Boeing, Redwire Space, and Genesis Engineering Solutions. Arizona State University will lead a “global consortium” of over 12 academic institutions, to advise on research and education.
The vaguely worded press release is a luxury tourism ad, promising “human-centered space architecture with world-class services and amenities that is inspiring, practical, and safe.” There will be, according to Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin, “a vibrant business ecosystem” that’ll generate “new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness.”
In an email, Blue Origin declined to expand on what amenities or “new entertainments” entail. But a Sierra Space spokesperson elaborated: “We are creating a mixed-used business park. This means we are opening space business to new tenants and participants, creating a vibrant economy in space with new people living and working in space.” Target customers would include “manufacturing, space tourism, pharmaceuticals and any company who can see benefits of being in zero gravity,” the spokesperson said.
They said that it’s to be determined whether researchers will get lower rates for tickets.
So, fine to ignore until it’s large enough that we can’t. For now, here’s a cool rendering: