A new kind of space station era is about to begin. The NASA announces the development of 3 stations to vocation commercial.
These stations are presented by 3 firms other than the startup Axiom Space. These projects will be the first attempts to create places where humans can live and work in space. This project is being done outside the framework of government space agencies. Many already see it as a first step towards the conquest of the planet Mars.
They are now part of what has been called “Space 4.0”, where space technology is driven by business opportunities.
Who are these “space for all” actors?
At present, only the International Space Station (ISS) (7 people) and the Chinese station Tiangong (3 people) make the 10 tenants of the deep void. However, the ISS will bow out around 2030.
Remember thatAxiom Space won a $ 140 million contract from NASA in February 2020 for private modules to be attached to the ISS. After his retirement, the modules will take their independence in the form of a free flight station.
3 other groups have just been selected for the first phase of NASA’s Commercial LEO Destinations competition aimed at building free-flight space stations to replace the ISS.
To begin with, a group of Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin proposed a station called “Starlab” to provide research, manufacturing and tourism opportunities. This is closely followed by the project “Orbital Reef” of the group formed by Blue Origin, Sierra Space and Boeing. The third project, by Northrop Grumman, will consist of modules based on its cargo vehicle “Cygnus” already existing.
Spatial comfort as a priority
It remains to be seen whether private space stations will be more habitable than previous generations like Salyut, Mir and the ISS. In general, the old stations have been designed to meet Technical constraints rather than prioritizing crew comfort. Conversely, this is where social science approaches come in, such as those used in the archaeological project of the International Space Station, aimed at the comfort of future tenants.
Like SpaceX, these players in the commercial conquest of space promise luxury for the astronauts of tomorrow. Faced with social issues, the physiological constraints of living in space, this remains a challenge in itself to be taken up. In any case, see you in 2025 for the launch of the first module!