NASA to split $415.6 million between three ISS successor makers

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The American space agency NASA has given three companies a total of $415.6 million to develop the successors to ISS. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, among others, will receive funding from NASA for an ISS successor.

Of the three companies, Nanoracks received the most money, with $160 million. This company makes ‘Starlab’ together with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. Starlab is set to launch with one flight in 2027 and will be continuously manned. This space station aims to facilitate advanced research and will accommodate four astronauts. Starlab will be comparable to the ISS in power supply, size and payload capability.

Blue Origin gets $130 million; this company is partnering with Sierra Space on Orbital Reef. In October, Blue Origin shared more details about this commercial space station. Orbital Reef should be operational in the second half of this decade and will be designed to be scalable so that it can be used for multiple purposes. Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Arizona State University, among others, are collaborating on Orbital Reef.

Northrop Grumman gets the least money of the three companies at $ 125.6 million. Less is known about this project, although there is talk of a modular space station that should be able to facilitate science, tourism and industrial experiments, among other things. Dynetics, among others, is participating in this plan.

With the money, the three projects can further expand and develop their plans, NASA writes. The three projects concern space stations where both commercial companies and government organizations can go for research, for example. The private companies that will operate the space stations will now expand these plans together with NASA.

This first phase will last until 2025. In the second phase, NASA wants to certify space stations so that the space stations can actually be used by government services for research. By handing over the construction and operation of the ISS successor to private companies, NASA says it will save more money for missions to the Moon and Mars.

NASA expects to have at least two astronauts on the ISS on a continuous basis and the ability to conduct about two hundred studies per year through its own laboratory. This involves supporting human research, demonstrating technology, and biological and physical research. The ISS can be used until 2028, according to NASA.

Blue Origins Orbital Reef

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