Orbital Reef: A business park in space

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There’s a plan afoot to create a business park in space. It’s called “Orbital Reef,” and it’s designed to make living and working in space a reality for businesses. We learned more from Lindy Elkins-Tanton, with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, which is taking part in the project.

“This is a concept for a really, next-generation, low-earth-orbit space station. One where every kind of different use you can imagine, every peaceful use, is welcomed. And so that’s why they’re saying it’s like a business park,” Elkins-Tanton said.

She continued, “Orbital Reef, the organization will provide all of the kind of facilities needs, getting there, coming back, communications, life support…and then all of us in companies and nations and schools can go up and use space on Orbital Reef for our own purposes.”

The big question is, why would these individuals want to go out into space?

“The obvious first uses can be things like manufacturing materials, and pharmaceuticals in space, having the advantage of micro-gravity to make things for example very pure or very spherical, or things that are harder to do on earth,” Elkins-Tanton said.

She added that there will be a lot of science experiments similar to what is on the International Space Station.

And another big hope with this idea is the tourism aspect of making space more accessible to people.

The Orbital Reef station will be a similar size to the international space station. They’re expecting this to go up into space some time in the second half of this decade.

Elkins-Tanton expects the length of stay at the space station to be fairly short to similar to how they are using the International Space Station now.

Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration is excited for this partnering opportunity and they accepted it with pleasure.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Professor, ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration

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