Mystery company develops low-Earth orbit base for civilian astronauts

According to the company hired to build a life support system for the outpost, a new all-private space station is being developed that could be launched in a few years.

Collins Aerospace in Charlotte, North Caroline, builds life support and water recovery systems for NASA in use on the International Space Station (ISS).

The company says it was awarded a $2.6 million contract from a long-term “orbital” customer who was building a space station, but has not revealed the mysterious buyer.

Collins, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, said they are building an Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) that could be launched “within a few years” to provide livable conditions beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Speculation points to Axiom Space, a private space tourism company, as the buyer, as it is the most well-known company actively planning a commercial space station.

The space tourism company has a deal with SpaceX to bring passengers to the ISS and has proposed a module for the station intended solely for use by private astronauts.

Collins Aerospace in Charlotte, North Caroline, builds life support and water recovery systems for NASA in use on the International Space Station (ISS)

Collins Aerospace in Charlotte, North Caroline, builds life support and water recovery systems for NASA in use on the International Space Station (ISS)

It's not clear who is building the outpost, though one candidate is the Gateway Foundation, which is planning a ring station to be launched in 2027

It's not clear who is building the outpost, though one candidate is the Gateway Foundation, which is planning a ring station to be launched in 2027

It’s not clear who is building the outpost, though one candidate is the Gateway Foundation, which is planning a ring station to be launched in 2027

VOYAGER STATION: A SPACIOUS HOTEL BUILT ON RINGS

The Voyager space station will orbit to produce lunar-level artificial gravity.

There will be an inner ‘docking ring’ that will be pressureless so that ships can unload passengers and cargo.

A residential ring with a number of modules will then be created along the outer edge. This includes a gym, kitchen, restaurant, bar and crew quarters.

Other modules will be privately or government-owned, including villas, hotels, or commercial activity zones.

Low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station currently stands, could one day be littered with human habitable outposts — both commercial and government.

Currently there are two, the ISS itself, and Tiangong, the Chinese space station that launched earlier this year and will be about the size of Mir when completed.

Russia is also working on its own space station, the first time it will operate its own orbiting base since it decommissioned the Soviet-era Mir in 2001.

It’s not clear whether this new space station, with the life support system provided by Collins, will be a module attached to the ISS or a stand-alone outpost.

Dave McClure, vice president at Collins, said this new era of commercial spaceflight “created the need for Earth-like atmospheres in low-Earth orbit destinations.”

“This award underscores Collins’ commitment to working with both the private and public sectors to lay the groundwork for commercial space travelers to ultimately live, work and play in space.”

Axiom Space, the private space tourism operator that manages flights to the ISS with SpaceX, declined to comment on the rumor that they were the buyer.

They will bring three paying customers and a former astronaut to the ISS in a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship early next year, as part of their pursuit of commercial, orbital space tourism.

The Houston, Texas-based company raised $130 million in February to begin building commercial modules that will be attached to the ISS beginning in 2024.

Ultimately, it hopes to modify the modules, remove them from the ISS at the end of its life, and create a new fully commercial space station.

the mo

the mo

The Russian Rassvet module is the most recent habitable module to be launched into space, and is attached to the ISS, mainly used for cargo storage and some cargo operations

Future space stations, such as the Gateway Foundation ring, could include restaurants, hotels, and lounges like the one pictured

Future space stations, such as the Gateway Foundation ring, could include restaurants, hotels, and lounges like the one pictured

Future space stations, such as the Gateway Foundation ring, could include restaurants, hotels, and lounges like the one pictured

RUSSIAN SPACE STATION PLAN TO INCLUDE ‘TOURIST’ MODULE WITH WIFI

Few specific details have been revealed about the new Russian space station, including its name.

Russia has a history of successful stations, including Mir, the first modular space station with a crew of 3.

They also formed the core of the ISS when it was built together with the US in 1998.

The new station is expected to have five modules, including a ‘tourist module’ with two large windows facing the earth and Wi-Fi.

The first core module is expected to be launched in 2025 with the station surrounding it in space.

Thales Alenia Space is building the first two modules that will eventually form Axiom Station – which will be launched for the ISS in 2024 and 2025.

It will also be the first commercial modules to be attached to the ISS, all previous modules have been managed by national agencies such as NASA, ESA and Roscosmos.

Axiom isn’t the only commercial operator exploring the idea of ​​a space station, both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have hinted at the prospect, though Sir Richard Branson said it would likely take decades.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, goes further, saying that one day he would like to see heavy and polluting industry in orbit.

The other potential customer for a life support system that can be used on an orbital outpost is the Gateway Foundation. They have proposed an artificial gravity station.

Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), the Voyager Station could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit.

It will contain a series of pods attached to the outside of the rotating ring, and some of these pods could be sold to NASA and ESA for space research.

No details have been released about the cost to build the space station, or the cost of an overnight stay at the hotel, although OAC says construction costs will be cheaper thanks to reusable launch vehicles like the SpaceX Falcon 9 and the future Starship.

The Voyager Station, developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit

The Voyager Station, developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit

The Voyager Station, developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit

Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo (L), Nie Haisheng (C) and Liu Boming (R) are the first crew members of the country's new space station, Tiangong, which launched earlier this year

Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo (L), Nie Haisheng (C) and Liu Boming (R) are the first crew members of the country's new space station, Tiangong, which launched earlier this year

Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo (L), Nie Haisheng (C) and Liu Boming (R) are the first crew members of the country’s new space station, Tiangong, which launched earlier this year

Not to be outdone by the commercial sector, both China and Russia are developing space stations in orbit, as well as a planned station in orbit around the moon.

NASA is also developing a lunar orbit station known as the Lunar Gateway, in partnership with ESA and JAXA, sometime before 2028.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos will launch its own space station in 2025 and as part of it will include a special tourism module to accommodate visitors.

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 400 kilometers above the Earth.

It has been permanently manned by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.

Research aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have explored human research, space medicine, life sciences, natural sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency NASA spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee overseeing NASA has begun investigating whether the program could be extended beyond 2024.

Alternatively, the money could be used to accelerate planned human space initiatives to the Moon and Mars.

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