NASA reveals the companies that could build “commercial targets” in low-earth orbits

Three companies have signed agreements with NASA to develop space stations that could eventually replace the International Space Station. Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC and Northrop Grumman are receiving over $ 400 million, according to government data Announcement from NASA Earlier this month.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the announcement that NASA “is working with US companies to develop space targets that people can visit, live and work on, so that NASA can continue to explore a path in space for the benefit of mankind and at the same time.” may promote commercial activities “. in space.”

The funding is part of a plan for the transition from the ISS to commercial space stations. The ISS is currently slated to remain operational until at least 2024, but it’s several decades old and expensive to keep running. NASA wants to save money by becoming a client of private broadcasters so the agency can focus on other projects like its Artemis missions.

Beautiful photos of the earth from space

Blue Origin, which is receiving $ 130 million, is partnering with Sierra Space to work on its Orbital Reef station, a “mixed-use space business park,” almost the size of the ISS the company pioneered in October Had announced plans. Blue Origin claims that Orbital Reef will be operational in the second half of this decade.

Nanoracks LLC, awarded $ 160 million, is working on a Starlab station in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. Starlab is designed for four astronauts and should have laboratories for biology, plant colonization, physics and materials research. In October the three companies announced They plan to start Starlab in 2027.

Northrop Grumman, receiving $ 125.6 million, is working with Dynetics and other unannounced partners to develop a modular space station. Northrup currently manufactures the Cygnus spacecraft, which carries cargo to the ISS.

The plans for each station include various interfaces, such as multiple docking ports, that could enable future expansion and possibly tourism. NASA says the funding agreements are part of its effort to “enable a resilient, US-led commercial economy in near-earth orbit.”

For more news from NASA, check out our article on astronauts aboard the ISS making tacos, and check out our article on all of the NASA Easter eggs we have found on past rovers.

Main picture credit: Northrop Grumman

Kait Sanchez is a freelance writer for IGN. Find her on Twitter @crisp_red.

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