HomeScience & TechNASA's Next-Gen Space Station: Orbital Reef Takes Strides Towards Reality

NASA’s Next-Gen Space Station: Orbital Reef Takes Strides Towards Reality

As the International Space Station (ISS) approaches its eventual retirement, NASA is investing substantial resources into potential successors, with one standout contender being Orbital Reef – a collaborative effort between Jeff Bezos‘s Blue Origin and Sierra Space.

On Wednesday, NASA announced that Orbital Reef achieved four significant milestones in its crucial technology, particularly in developing a system to recycle astronauts’ and tourists’ urine – a vital aspect of sustaining human life in space.

“These milestones are critical to ensuring that a commercial destination can support human life,” stated Angela Hart, manager of NASA’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program.

The milestones encompassed rigorous testing of Orbital Reef’s regenerative system, designed to provide clean air and water for occupants. This system aims to remove impurities from the air, recycle urine, and maintain a sustainable water supply.

While the notion of recycling urine for consumption may raise eyebrows, it’s a practice astronauts aboard the ISS have been familiar with for over a decade. Former ISS Commander Chris Hadfield emphasized the purity of the recycled water, highlighting its role in reducing the need for costly water launches from Earth.

NASA’s investment in Orbital Reef, totaling $172 million, underscores its strategic shift towards leveraging commercial partnerships for space exploration. These next-generation space stations will serve as habitats for NASA astronauts while potentially accommodating space tourists, reflecting a vision of spacious modules with panoramic views of Earth.

Transitioning ISS operations to commercial entities will allow NASA to redirect funds towards ambitious lunar exploration initiatives, including establishing a permanent human presence on the moon and paving the way for future missions to Mars.

The ISS, beset by aging infrastructure and operational challenges, is slated to remain operational until at least 2030, by which time NASA anticipates the deployment of privately owned space stations like Orbital Reef. With ticket costs yet to be disclosed, aspiring space tourists can start saving for a rendezvous with the cosmos aboard Orbital Reef, promising an unparalleled experience of weightlessness and celestial vistas.

While the ISS gracefully bows out, the ascent of Orbital Reef heralds a new era of space exploration, blending cutting-edge technology with commercial innovation to propel humanity’s journey beyond Earth’s bounds.

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