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Jeff Bezos unveils ‘space business park’ Orbital Reef

The International Space Station may soon have commercial competition, as Jeff Bezos announces plans for a ‘space business park’ launched by his company Blue Origin.

Following his successful rocket launch earlier this year, Jeff Bezos’ space tourism company Blue Origin has announced plans to create and launch a space station.

This one will be notably different NASA’s International Space Station, however, as it will run primarily for commercial and business reasons, rather than for scientific research – though this could still be done on board.

The company says it aims to have the station ready and operational by 2030 and it will be called ‘Orbital Reef’.

Up to ten people can be hosted on board at any one time. Orbital Reef will be 32,000 square feet in size and provide an ‘ideal location for film-making in microgravity’. A space ‘hotel’ will also be included.

During a press conference, Blue Origin and partnered company Sierra Space declined to comment on building costs. It’s worth keeping in mind that Bezos himself has pledged $1 billion USD a year to Blue Origin. Money is no object when it comes to the ex-Amazon CEO.

NASA has actually been looking for a way to replace the International Space Station, which is now over twenty years old and severely needs repairs. It will be awarding $400 million USD in private contracts to space companies willing to help out. Not exactly Bezos money, but still.

Blue Origin has faced criticism for a variety of reasons this year.

Not only were employees accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, allegations of safety issues and malpractice raised public concern in early October and Elon Musk’s rival company Space X managed to secure a $2.9 billion USD contract with NASA in September.

Perhaps Orbital Reef will give Blue Origin a boost in fortune, though both Musk and Bezos will continue to face backlash from many who feel this battle to monopolise our solar system is misplaced.

In a year where COP 26 may be the last opportunity to avoid climate disaster, it seems somewhat indulgent to be pouring money into ideas that could be perceived as vanity projects.

We’ll have to see how the Orbital Reef project pans out. Perhaps a lucky few ticket holders will watch the climate disaster unfold from the comfort of space.

Nobody can hear you scream in existential dread up there, after all.


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