Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin planning new commercial space station Orbital Reef

Countries, space agencies, businesses and very rich people are the targeted users.
Countries, space agencies, businesses and very rich people are the targeted users. Photo credit: Blue Origin

Not content with short joyrides for billionaires to space, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has set his sights even higher - a new space station.

Bezos' Blue Origin company has announced its plan for Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned and operated space station to be built in low Earth orbit.

Currently the space company is limited to short flights aboard its New Shepard craft, like the one that made actor William Shatner the oldest person to travel to space earlier this month.

But the new project, scheduled for deployment in the second half of the decade, will give businesses a whole new area to operate in as part of what the company calls a "mixed use business park" in space.

"For over 60 years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade," Brent Sherwood, Blue Origin senior vice president said.

"We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalise space flight. A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness."

The company is partnering with Sierra Space, the organisation behind the Dream Chaser space plane, to deliver Orbital Reef with the intention of it becoming a replacement for the aging International Space Station (ISS).

As well as targeting rich investors to the new space station, Blue Origin is also hoping existing space agencies and countries without their own space programmes as well as media and travel companies take up the opportunity to work in space.

Blue Origin's Orbital Reef
Photo credit: Blue Origin

But there will also be opportunities for space tourists - presumably those with very deep pockets - to take advantage too.

"Space workers and tourists alike will have safe, comfortable, and quick access outside Orbital Reef," Brand Griffin, program manager for Genesis Engineering Solutions, one of the other companies involved, said.

"A shirtsleeve environment, great visibility, automated guidance, and advanced precision manipulators will make external operations cost-effective and routine."

In the press conference Blue Origin said NASA had already indicated it plans to be an "anchor tenant" of Orbital Reef, reported The Verge.

The US space agency already has a contract with Axiom to develop a space station that will dock with the ISS. 

And earlier this year NASA created a new Commercial Low Earth Orbit program to help fund companies to develop private space stations that NASA could use in the future.