4 Future space stations projects in the next decade

Space Crew Team - 08 March 2024

Currently, the ISS ( International Space Station ) and the recent Tiangong space station launched by China, are the only two human space stations orbiting the earth. But the ISS has been around for more than 20 years and is one of the most expensive buildings ever created by humanity, and costs NASA around $4 billion a year. So NASA is looking to open the space station to commercial business to allocate its budget elsewhere. In addition, with the recent decrease in price to get any kg to orbit, individual companies are now able to create, launch and operate their own space stations. We will see what are the future space stations projects.

1 - The Future of the International Space Station ( ISS )

As we saw in the introduction, NASA wants to open the ISS to commercial use. And Axiom Space has taken this opportunity to build their space station, the Axiom Station. Axiom Space plan is to build its future space station by attaching it to the International Space Station first, then after all the modules are connected, to detach from the ISS to become its own space station. Once fully assembled, Axiom Station will nearly double the usable volume of the International Space Station. The first module is planned to be attached to the ISS in 2024 and fully completed in 2028. The Axiom station will be used for research in microgravity, space manufacturing and be homed to both private and professional astronauts.

More info on the Axiom Station

2 - Orbital Reef Space Station

Orbital Reef will be a private space station in low Earth orbit built for commerce, research, and tourism. It should be operational in the second half of the 2020s and be able to support a crew of 10 people. This project is made possible by the collaboration of private space companies that will each bring their own sets of expertise.

  • Blue Origin – Utility systems, large-diameter core modules, and reusable heavy-lift New Glenn launch system.

  • Sierra Space - Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) module, node module, and runway-landing Dream Chaser spaceplane for crew and cargo transportation, capable of landing on runways worldwide.

  • Boeing – Science module, station operations, maintenance engineering, and Starliner crew spacecraft.

  • Redwire Space – Microgravity research, development, and manufacturing; payload operations and deployable structures.

  • Genesis Engineering Solutions – Single Person Spacecraft for routine operations and tourist excursions.

  • Arizona State University – Leads a global consortium of universities providing research advisory services and public outreach.

More info on Orbital Reef

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3 - Lunar Gateway, the new Scientific Space Station

The most awaited future space station is probably the Lunar Gateway, it is part of the Artemis mission that aims to bring back humans to the moon to have an active presence on the surface. Artemis is run by NASA in the majority but several other space agencies will work on it, like the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Lunar Gateway will orbit around the moon and serve as the staging point for both robotic and crewed exploration of the lunar south pole and is the proposed staging point for NASA's Deep Space concept for transport to Mars. For now, the space station is planned to launch in November 2024 and will be able to support a crew of 4 astronauts.

More info on the Artemis mission

4 - Starlab Space Station

Like Orbital Reef, Starlab will be a future space station run fully by private companies. Starlab will be operated by Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin. On particularity of Starlab is that the main structure consists of a large inflatable habitat of 340m3. The station also features a 60kW power and propulsion element, a large robotic arm for servicing cargo and external payloads, and a state-of-the-art laboratory system to host advanced research, science, and commercial capability. Starlab will deploy from one single launch in 2027 and be able to host a crew of 4 people at the same time.

More info on the Starlab space station

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