COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Amazon is getting into the private space station business.
The company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos has joined the Orbital Reef commercial space station project to provide supply-chain logistics and Amazon Web Services for the private orbital outpost, which is slated to launch by the late 2020s. The Orbital Reef project is led by Blue Origin (another company founded by Bezos) and Sierra Space, and is a partnership with Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Arizona State University.
Amazon’s role in Orbital Reef, which the company announced Tuesday (April 5) at the 37th National Space Symposium here, includes overseeing logistics using its Distribution and Fulfillment Solutions arm. And Amazon Web Services will offer networking, cloud computing and communications solutions for the station’s fight operations, development and design teams.
“We are excited to collaborate with the Orbital Reef team to reimagine logistics for space,” Brett McMillen, director of strategic partners for Amazon Distribution and Fulfillment Solutions, said in a statement (opens in new tab). “Amazon looks forward to sharing our expertise in logistics and end-to-end supply chain infrastructure to help develop reliable infrastructure that ensures humans have the resources they need to explore, experiment and sustain long-term habitation in low Earth orbit.”
Announced in October 2021, the Orbital Reef commercial space station is a collaborative project by Blue Origin, Sierra Space, Boeing and others (including, now, Amazon) to develop a private space station that can be used for a wide variety of commercial applications. Among those potential uses are commercial research and manufacturing, space tourism and media and entertainment projects, its backers have said.
The initial Orbital Reef design calls for a baseline configuration that will offer 29,311 cubic feet (830 cubic meters) of pressurized volume and be able to support up to 10 people at a time.
Blue Origin will contribute large-diameter modules and use its New Glenn heavy-lift rocket to launch components into orbit. Boeing will oversee Orbital Reef operations and maintenance, provide some science modules and use its Starliner spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the station. Boeing already has a NASA contract to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) with Starliner, too.
Sierra Space will build expandable Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) modules to serve as living quarters for astronaut crews. Its Dream Chaser space plane (which NASA has tapped for ISS cargo delivery flights) may also fly cargo and crews to the Orbital Reef.
Meanwhile, Redwire Space will develop solar arrays for the commercial space station while Genesis Engineering Solutions will build a single-person spacecraft for personal “spacewalks” outside. Arizona State University will lead a 14-university consortium to provide research advice and outreach.
The initial Orbital Reef station is envisioned to include a core module, LIFE module, science module, Genesis spacecraft and power system, Blue Origin has said.
“Orbital Reef is applying proven approaches to enable a robust business ecosystem in low Earth orbit,” said Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of advanced development programs, in a statement, in which he hailed new partners Amazon and AWS. “We’re working with the world’s best to reimagine logistics for a commercial mixed-used space business park.”
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