NASA revealed the selection of three US firms to get federal money to continue to construct commercial space stations.
NASA selected Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC, and Northrop Grumman from a pool of 11 applications to win nearly $400 million in federal financing through three distinct Space Act Agreements.
In July, NASA issued a request for proposals for its Private Low Earth Orbit Construction (CLD) initiative, which intends to aid in the development of commercial space stations. It is part of a larger strategy to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with private space stations in the future. NASA would be a customer of the commercial space industry under this model, allowing it to save money and focus on basic research and exploration.
Blue Origin will get $130 million to construct Orbital Reef, a free-flying space station idea initially unveiled by the corporation in October. Orbital Reef is being created in collaboration with Sierra Space, the company behind the winged spaceplane Dream Chaser. According to Blue Origin, the station will be operating in the second part of the decade.
Nanoracks LLC has been awarded $160 million for the development of its Starlab station idea. Starlab, which was also announced in October, is a cooperation between Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. According to a NASA news release, Starlab, which is designed to house up to four astronauts and undertake sophisticated research on biology, materials science, and other topics, is scheduled to launch in 2027 on a single voyage.
Northrop Grumman’s $125.6 million grant will allow it to create a commercial space station utilizing existing technology such as its Cygnus spacecraft, which presently transports goods to the International Space Station. Northrop is collaborating with Dynetics on its modular space station design, with other partners to be disclosed in the future.
Axiom Space, a Houston-based firm that was the first to be given money in January 2020 to create its commercial module for the ISS, said on Twitter that it did not compete for one of the CLD contracts.
Source: The Verge
According to NASA, the grants are the first step in a two-step process to enable a seamless transition to commercial LEO stations.
The first phase, which is projected to last through 2025, would allow grant applicants to develop plans and designs that fulfil the demands of both the private sector and the government. During the second phase, NASA intends to certify these stations for use by human astronauts and, eventually, to begin employing them.