NASA Grants an Additional $100 to Develop Private Space Stations14th Jan 2024
NASA has granted almost $100 million in extra funding to companies working on low Earth orbit infrastructure.
As the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled to retire in 2030, NASA has collaborated with Voyager Space and Blue Origin under its Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations (CLD) project to conceptualize a new orbiting laboratory. On the 5th of January, NASA made adjustments to its current Space Act Agreements, including reallocating funds and adding new development landmarks.
According to a statement from the space agency, NASA’s director of commercial space, Phil McAlister, stated that the partners and NASA would greatly benefit from the new milestones, facilitating a seamless transition from the ISS to privately-owned low Earth orbit infrastructure.
NASA Awards Additional Funding to Blue Origin and Voyager Space for Developing New Commercial Space Stations
Blue Origin has been granted an extra $42 million, in addition to its $130 million grant, to work on developing the Orbital Reef low Earth orbit space station concept with the aid of several other companies, including Amazon, Boeing, and Sierra Space. As per the statement, the increased funding will support technology maturation and further component design reviews, along with the station’s sustaining systems, like atmospheric monitoring and water filtration.
Voyager Space has been granted an additional $57.5 million to its initial $160 million grant for designing the Starlab orbiting complex, which is being developed in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Nanoracks. The additional funding will help accomplish numerous development landmarks geared towards assembly, testing, operating, and integration, along with a proximity operations demonstration and rendezvous.
Voyager Space and Northrop Grumman Enter into Partnership, Resulting in Reallocated Funds
The extra funding awarded to Voyager Space is set to be utilized to advance Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft after the two companies entered into a new partnership agreement. Prior to this agreement, Northrop Grumman and NASA had established a separate Space Act Agreement to work on their own orbital station. However, Northrop Grumman has since revealed that it will collaborate with Voyager Space to carry cargo toward Starlab via its Cygnus spacecraft.
Due to this collaboration, Northrop Grumman terminated its contract with NASA, and a combined amount of $99.5 million in program funding, including the remaining funds from Northrop Grumman’s agreement, were reallocated to Voyager Space and Blue Origin. A portion of the reassigned funds will be utilized to update the Cygnus spacecraft, allowing it to dock with Starlab.
NASA has teamed up with several companies to conceptualize and construct commercial space stations as well as facilitate research, testing, and training in space. The goal is to commence operations before the ISS is phased out in 2030.