The partnership between Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space on the Orbital Reef space station project is facing uncertainty. While the companies announced their joint project in 2021, updates about Orbital Reef have been scarce in the past year. Now, sources indicate that discussions are underway regarding a potential end to the partnership.
The main reason for the potential split is a shift in priorities for both companies. Blue Origin has secured a $3.4 billion NASA contract for a lunar lander, which competes for resources with its space station and other projects. Sierra Space is focusing on its Dream Chaser spaceplane, which is set to conduct cargo missions to the International Space Station.
Orbital Reef was initially presented as a “mixed-use business park” in space, with the first components planned to launch in 2027. However, the project’s status has become increasingly uncertain, with signs such as the project website not being updated for over a year, job listings no longer mentioning Orbital Reef, and Sierra Space dropping references to it in press releases.
The project’s future could involve Blue Origin continuing without Sierra Space, given that Blue Origin won a $130 million NASA contract for the project. Still, discussions are ongoing, and the situation remains fluid. Sierra Space, meanwhile, has been continuing work on its own habitat concept called LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) and recently secured $290 million in new funding.
The potential dissolution of the partnership may not be surprising to NASA, as project structures and participants can change during the development phases of such endeavors. However, it raises questions about the future of Orbital Reef and the role of private companies in space station development.
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