Orbital Reef: Jeff Bezos' Space Hotel that will revolutionise galactic tourism

Bezos' plan for the first private space station has just surpassed four key milestones requested by NASA to ensure the vital conditions of future astronauts and visitors.

Illustrative image of the hatches of the Orbital Reef. Crpedito: Blue Origin

In the near future, both astronauts and private citizens could venture into space and reside in the Orbital Reef, a private space station designed for extended stays. This space reef will serve as a multifunctional center for commercial, research and tourist activities.

The project, led by Sierra Space and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' company, aims to put the Orbital Reef into operation in low Earth orbit by the year 2027. Recently, it has passed crucial tests carried out by NASA.

The commercial space station, partly funded by NASA, must demonstrate that its critical life support system will work optimally. The last four milestones focused on vital aspects such as purification, storage and recycling of air and water.

Orbital Reef Render. Credit: Blue Origin.

In space, nothing is wasted, not even the waste. Therefore, it is essential to clean the air of carbon dioxide and regenerate oxygen. In addition, water, including urine, must be recovered and purified, but it must also be kept within the system. Bringing new air or water into orbit is neither cheap nor easy.

Basic systems to guarantee life

One of the key tests focused on the control of traces of contaminants. The ability of the filters to remove harmful impurities from the air was evaluated.

Likewise, the water system underwent three types of tests: a water oxidation test to evaluate its cleanliness, urine water recovery tests with a focus on the reuse of waste and, last but not least, a water storage tank test to evaluate its effectiveness.

These milestones are essential to ensure that a commercial destination can house human life so that NASA astronauts can continue to have access to the low Earth's orbit to carry out important scientific research in a unique microgravity environment.

Mentioned Angela Hart, manager of Commercial Development of Low Earth Orbit at NASA. Program, she said in a statement, because in addition, each milestone that is completed allows NASA to obtain information about the progress of our partner in the design and development of the station.

It should be noted that this is not the only successful test related to the Orbital Reef. In January, Sierra Space pushed its LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) inflatable station module to the limit until it finally collapsed.

LIFE exceeded NASA's recommendations by 27%. The International Space Station already has similar systems that guarantee the environmental control and well-being of astronauts.

A new private generation

Orbital Reef is just one of the commercial space stations that NASA supports, some of them through funded agreements, others through unfunded agreements. With the withdrawal of the International Space Station during the next decade, the human presence in space will be very different in a few years.

The Orbital Reef, the ambitious project led by Jeff Bezos in collaboration with NASA, is destined to become a commercial space station of great relevance. Below, I present a comparison between the Orbital Reef and the International Space Station (ISS):

International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA

It is expected to rival the ISS in size. It will be able to accommodate up to 10 astronauts simultaneously. The ISS has been in orbit since 1998 and has hosted numerous astronauts from different countries over the years. Its capacity varies, but it can generally accommodate 6 people.

Orbital Reef will not only be designed to be a center for research, technological development and space adventures. In addition, it is expected to be a place for commercial and tourist activities. While the ISS is mainly used for scientific research, microgravity experiments, Earth observation and space technology tests.

Close perspectives and future

NASA will contribute 100 million dollars in the initial phase of the Orbital Reef project. In return, you will have access to the station for research and development. For its part, the ISS is a joint project of multiple space agencies, including NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, JAXA and CSA.

While the ISS has vital systems, including the control of air and water pollutants. Their systems recycle oxygen and water to maintain a clean and safe environment for astronauts. Arrecife Orbital has already passed all the critical tests of the same systems.

The success of this new project could pave the way for future missions and settlements in space, merging Bezos' business vision with NASA's scientific experience.

Although the ISS has been fundamental for space exploration, its useful life is coming to an end. Projects such as the Orbital Reef are expected to take the lead, representing an exciting step towards the future of space exploration, since its impact could be significant on the way we live and work in outer space.