Bezos’ Private Space Station, Orbital Reef, Has Passed Four Key Tests

29th Mar 2024
Bezos’ Private Space Station, Orbital Reef, Has Passed Four Key Tests

The Private Space Station Orbital Reef, a project led by Sierra Space and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, targets achieving operational status in low-Earth orbit by 2027. Recently, it has successfully passed four significant tests conducted by NASA.

What is Orbital Reef?

In the coming years, astronauts and private citizens could have the opportunity to journey to space and reside in it. The NASA-funded first private space station is designed for extended stays, serving purposes such as commerce, research, and tourism.

Tests for proving Orbital Reef’s functionality

But first, Orbital Reef must prove the functionality of its essential life-support system. The recent tests focused on demonstrating that essential systems are functioning as they should. They centred on testing air and water purification, storage, and recycling.

Why these tests are crucial?

In space, nothing goes to waste, not even waste itself. Therefore, air must be purified to remove carbon dioxide and replenish oxygen. Water, including urine, must be reclaimed, cleaned, and recycled within the system. Obtaining new air or water in orbit is neither inexpensive nor straightforward.

“These milestones are critical to ensuring that a commercial destination can support human life so NASA astronauts can continue to have access to low Earth orbit to conduct important scientific research in the unique microgravity environment. Additionally, each milestone that is completed allows NASA to gain insight into our partner’s progress on station design and development,” stated manager of NASA’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program Angela Hart.

How the Orbital Reef tests were conducted?

One of the tests concentrated on trace contaminant control. The researchers evaluated the filters’ capability to eliminate harmful impurities from the air. The water system underwent three types of tests: a water containment oxidation test to examine the water cleaning process, urine water recovery tests focused on reclaiming waste, and a water tank test to evaluate water storage within the system.

Systems similar to this one, ensuring environmental control and the well-being of astronauts, are already implemented on the Private Space Station.

The previous tests of the Private Space Station: LIFE

This recent successful test for Orbital Reef isn’t the only one. In January, Sierra Space conducted a test on its inflatable station module LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment), pushing it to its limits until it eventually ruptured. To note, LIFE surpassed NASA recommendations by 27% before reaching its breaking point!

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