Washington (AFP)

Called "Orbital reef", it is described as a "commercial park" intended to accommodate multiple customers.

"Experienced space agencies, high-tech consortia, nations without a space program, media and travel agencies, subsidized entrepreneurs and inventors, future-oriented investors, all have their place" on board, the companies said in a statement.

This new project is yet another sign of the frantic race to commercialize low earth orbit.

Blue Origin, which has billionaire Jeff Bezos as its boss, already has activities in space tourism with its New Shepard rocket.

"For more than six decades, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital flights and habitat in space, setting us in the path for private business to take off this decade," said in a statement. Brent Sherwood, Manager at Blue Origin.

"We will expand access, lower costs."

Several companies will be partners in the project, in particular Boeing, which will be in charge of the scientific module and will provide the means of transport to this station: the Starliner capsule, still in the test phase.

The station will evolve at an altitude of 500 km - a little higher than the current International Space Station (ISS) - and will measure 830 m3, or "almost as much" as the ISS.

The resort's architecture will be "human-centered," with "large windows," Blue Origin and Sierra Space have promised.

The latter company, a subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation, has in particular imagined an inflatable housing module.

A drawing of the interior of the space station that Blue Origin plans to build, and which should be operational by the end of the Handout decade BLUE ORIGIN / AFP

“As a former NASA astronaut, I have waited a long time for the moment when working and living in space would be accessible to more people around the world, and that moment has arrived,” said Janet Kavandi, President from Sierra Space.

Other companies are planning to build their space stations.

Axiom Space has long announced that it wants to build its own, which will first be attached to the ISS before taking its autonomy.

And last week, the Nanoracks company, in collaboration with the companies Lockheed Martin and Voyager Space, announced that it wanted to build a commercial station called Starlab, which should be operational from 2027.

The future of the ISS is now officially assured until 2024 and, from a technical point of view, NASA has confirmed that it will be able to operate until 2028. The head of the ISS The US space agency, Bill Nelson, has spoken out in favor of its extension until 2030.

But NASA strongly encourages the privatization of low orbit, hoping to save money and be able to focus on more distant exploration missions.

© 2021 AFP

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