NASA Private Space Station Contracts: Blue Origin, Nanoracks, Northrop


Concept art of a “Starlab” space station

Nanoracks

NASA has awarded contracts to three companies to develop private space stations, as the agency prepares for withdrawal from the International Space Station.

Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and Jeff Bezos’ Nanoracks have received a total of $ 415.6 million under NASA’s Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD) project, the agency said Thursday.

Nanoracks took home the biggest individual prize with $ 160 million, while Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman received $ 130 million and $ 125.6 million, respectively.

Notably, the private holding company Voyager Space is the majority shareholder of XO Markets, the parent company of Nanoracks.

NASA told CNBC earlier this year that the agency “had received about a dozen bids” from various companies for contracts under the project. While NASA plans to retire the International Space Station by the end of the decade, the CLD program represents an effort to turn to private companies for new space stations – the space agency expecting to save more money. ‘a billion dollars a year.

Rather than building and owning equipment itself, NASA has increasingly turned to public-private partnerships to achieve its goals in space. The agency has seen great success using this model over the past decade, with cargo and crew services provided via vehicles built by SpaceX and Northrop Grumman.

The agency doesn’t expect to foot the full bill for helping companies build new space stations, with NASA saying “the strategy has to work for both government and the private sector” from a point of view investments.

A rendering of the “Orbital Reef” space station in orbit.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin previously unveiled its plan for a space station called “Orbital Reef” – in partnership with Sierra Space, Boeing, Redwire Space and Genesis Engineering. The companies plan to have Orbital Reef’s base configuration operational by 2027, which it will build over the next decade.

Nanoracks also announced plans to build a station called “Starlab” – in partnership with Voyager and Lockheed Martin – and aims to be operational in orbit by 2027.

Northrop Grumman is building its own private space station, which the company says will initially support 4 astronauts and then expand to a crew of 8.

Notably, Axiom Space – a company that has previously won a $ 140 million contract with NASA to attach a habitable module to the ISS – did not bid on the CLD project. In a statement, Axiom said it “warmly congratulates the winners and looks forward to the shared vision of a thriving LEO business network.”

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