10.3 C
Thursday, June 1, 2023
HomeTechJed McCaleb's Vast private space station may be more than just science...

Jed McCaleb’s Vast private space station may be more than just science fiction


Some of the biggest names in the space industry are billionaires: Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson. The latest person to join this small cadre, at least in terms of personal net worth, is Jed McCaleb. His space station company, Stretched outpartners with SpaceX to be the first private company to launch and operate a fully commercial station in orbit.

The average American is probably not familiar with McCaleb, a software developer who was one of the creators of the now infamous Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange and a founder of the crypto protocol Ripple. By some estimates, his fortune is estimated at around $2.5 billion. When Vast emerged from stealth in fall 2022, it was greeted with more than a little skepticism. The company said it launched with a mission to build the world’s first artificial gravity space station – and gave few other details.

“I don’t blame people for being skeptical,” McCaleb said in a recent interview. “Obviously I’ve never done anything in aerospace before, so it’s a big step.”

The public’s doubts about McCaleb are likely to fade quickly today, with news that the company is aiming to launch the first commercial space station into orbit by August 2025. It’s an aggressive timeline, one that surpasses other station developers – and it’s all funded by McCaleb himself.

It is something that sets Vast apart from its competitors, said Vast President Max Haot. The unique aspect of the company is “Jed and his dedication, and the fact that not only do we have a single founder who is our sole investor, but he has the resources and the commitment to take us through this whole flight – both the crew as flight and launch of Haven-1 – without (necessary) a single external investor.”

The majority of the other space station developers — most notably Northrop Grumman and individual teams led by Blue Origin and Voyager Space — are seeking to partially fund their stations through contracts with NASA. Those three initiatives have already collected a combined $415.6 million to develop their stations. The last major player in this space, Axiom Space, is also working with NASA to attach a module to the International Space Station, with plans to release it into free flight once the ISS is decommissioned.

The decommissioning of the ISS looms over all of these initiatives. The US government’s commitment earlier this year to continue the station’s operations through 2030 is now the de facto deadline for these private operators – and for NASA itself, which has publicly stated its goal of continuously maintaining low orbit. to stay on earth.

Haven-1, as Vast’s first module is called, is designed for simplicity, McCaleb and Haot explained. The module will launch on a Falcon 9 and a crew of four will follow in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Vast has the option of purchasing an extra manned sloop for four people at a later date. The crew, as well as the ticket price, have not been disclosed.

Vast focuses on three major customer bases: international space agencies, high-net-worth individuals, and companies that want to host payloads inside or outside the module. Eventually Vast even wants to sell special modules to companies that might want to turn them into a space factory or scientific platform, or to individuals or teams.

Haven-1 has a lifespan of three years. Because the company was looking to optimize for simplicity over other considerations, the module will have no resupply or refueling capabilities. The best-case scenario, Haot said, is that the module will eventually mate with a second, larger station module that the company plans to launch on SpaceX’s Starship in 2028. However, if that second launch goes awry, Haot said Haven-1 will have been sent up with enough propellant to decompose itself at the end of its useful life.

“We’ll never learn how to do this until we start doing it,” McCaleb said. “SpaceX has shown that if you can move fast and be aggressive, that’s actually a good way to achieve these great things with hardware.”

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories