NASA on Thursday awarded three companies hun-dreds of millions of dollars to de-velop commercial space stations it hopes will eventually replace the International Space Station, which is due to retire around the end of the decade.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, aero-space company Nanoracks and defense contractor Northrop Grumman won $130 million, $160 million and $125.6 million contracts respectively to develop their orbital outposts.
A fourth company, Axiom Space, was previously awarded a $140 million contract.
The US space agency is increas-ingly turning to private industry to develop hardware it once made itself, in order to reduce costs and to focus on its ambitious goals, which include building habitats on the Moon and preparing for a crewed mission to Mars.
“We are partnering with US companies to develop the space destinations where people can visit, live, and work, enabling NASA to continue forging a path in space for the benefit of human-ity while fostering commercial activity in space,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson in a statement.
“These awards will help ensure the United States has a continu-ous human presence” in low Earth orbit, said Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight. “A gap would be bad.”
Blue Origin is partnering with Sierra Space to develop Orbital Reef, which will house up to 10 people in the second half of the decade.
It has been described as “a mixed-use business park in space” that will support micro-gravity research and manufactur-ing Nanoracks’ space station, which it is developing with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin, is called “Starlab. —Agencies