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Sierra and Blue Origin complete Orbital Reef system definition review

NASA awarded Blue Origin $130m in December 2021 for the development of Orbital Reef as part of its Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development (CLDP) programme.

Sierra Space and Blue Origin have completed the system definition review (SDR) with NASA for the Orbital Reef commercial space station.

The SDR is an important programme milestone to establish the functional baseline for Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned and operated space station to be built in low-Earth orbit (LEO). It demonstrates to NASA that the space station design is feasible and achievable while validating that the Orbital Reef system is on-track to proceed into the design phase.

The Orbital Reef team, including Amazon Supply Chain, Amazon Web Services, Arizona State University, Boeing, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Redwire Space, is maturing the design of its space station in partnership with NASA under the agency’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development (CLDP) program. NASA awarded the agreement in December 2021 to shift NASA’s research and exploration activities in LEO to commercial space stations and help stimulate a growing space economy.

The SDR included an extensive review to ensure that the proposed Orbital Reef architecture is responsive to the functional and performance requirements; it examined the proposed system architecture and the flow-down to all functional elements of the Orbital Reef system. The successful SDR supported NASA’s decision to further develop the system architecture and design. Representatives from Blue Origin, Sierra Space, team members, and NASA participated in the review, conducted between mid-June and mid-July to allow in-depth review of documentation and feedback to the team.

Commenting on the development, Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, said: “We are on the doorstep of the most profound industrial revolution in human history. An industrial revolution marked by the transition from the last 60 years of space exploration to a future where humanity extends our factories and cities into space. It isn’t solely about tourism – it is about unlocking the next great discoveries using the microgravity factories that we will build just 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. The microgravity factories and services provided by Orbital Reef have the potential to revolutionize every industry and become a major growth contributor to the US and world economies.”

Brent Sherwood, Senior Vice President of Advanced Development Programmes at Blue Origin, added: “This SDR moves Orbital Reef forward. We are meeting the needs of both the commercial marketplace and NASA’s requirements. Orbital Reef will change the game for human space flight in Earth orbit.”

Orbital Reef will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model for the future. Designed to open multiple new markets in space, Orbital Reef will provide anyone with the opportunity to establish their own address in orbit. This destination will offer research, industrial, international, and commercial customers the cost-competitive end-to-end services they need including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodation and operations including onboard crew. The station is expected to be operational by 2027.