NASA announced it has awarded $415.6 million to billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, stalwart contractor Northrop Grumman Corp and venture-backed Nanoracks to develop privately-owned and operated commercial space stations.
“No one knows how commercial LEO markets will develop, but we intend to find out,” Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programs for Blue Origin, said in a statement.
Houston-based Nanoracks won the largest award, at $160 million, for the Starlab space station it is building with Lockheed Martin Corp and Voyager Space. With operations set to begin in 2027, Starlab will feature a large inflatable habitat, a metallic docking node, a robotic arm for cargo and payloads and a research laboratory.
“This opportunity opens far-reaching possibilities for critical research and commercial industrial activity in LEO,” Nanoracks Chief Executive Amela Wilson said.
NASA also awarded $125.6 million to defense and space contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation.
“Our station will enable … sustainable commercial-based missions where NASA does not bear all the costs, but serves as one of many customers,” said Northrop Grumman vice president for civil and commercial space Steve Krein.