Offices: ASU, Blue Origin to create a business park in orbit


Mixed-use business park in space may seem like a daydream of the distant future, but Arizona State University is teaming up with Blue Origin and other industry leaders space to create one by the end of this decade.

Dubbed Orbital Reef, the pioneering space station will land in low Earth orbit and provide the infrastructure necessary to support new markets in space, including research, manufacturing, travel, education and exploration. And it’s not just for specialists.

“Throughout the 20th century, space exploration has been the realm of the hero, the inaccessible astronaut, the only special person. But with Orbital Reef, we will make it accessible to many more people who can participate in different ways, ”said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of the ASU Interplanetary Initiative and principal investigator of the Psyche mission of the NASA. “This is our time to bring everyone into space exploration.”

Learn more about Elkins-Tanton’s journey to becoming a planetary scientist and what we can learn from the asteroid Psyche.

Much like the land-based business parks, Orbital Reef will provide a shared facility that different entities can rent and use to serve research, government, industry, overseas and traveler clients. Elkins-Tanton likens it to a village, where people from many organizations can conduct their business separately and interact with each other. By offsetting the complexity and cost of living and working in low earth orbit, Orbital Reef opens up the space economy to a wider range of small businesses, projects and nations.

Orbital Reef inner core. Image courtesy of Blue Origin Media.

The Orbital Reef destination will be supported by industry leaders and teammates including Sierra Space, Boeing, Redwire Space and Genesis Engineering.

The ASU Interplanetary Initiative heads the Advisory Board of Orbital Reef University, a consortium of more than a dozen international universities. The group will establish guidelines and standards of conduct for ethical research on the station, provide advice to newcomers to space research, channel academic research on Orbital Reef, inform the academic user experience on board the station and will conduct STEM awareness and education programs.

“What we are very passionate about at Arizona State University and the Interplanetary Initiative is bringing universities, government and the private sector together for a positive human space future,” says Elkins-Tanton, who is also a professor. at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “We’ve been practicing this for a long time, so putting together a network like this to support Orbital Reef is in our wheelhouse. “

Learn about the economic and scientific opportunities offered by space from Professor Jim Bell.

Interplanetary Initiative is building a positive future for humans in space that benefits society both on and off the planet.

“Changing our mindset to see ourselves as a team of teammates aboard a spacecraft – Earth – opens the door to a common goal and better cooperation,” said Jessica Rousset, deputy director of Interplanetary Initiative.

The initiative aims to identify the key needs of human success in space, and then form interdisciplinary teams to solve them. This includes gathering information from the humanities and social sciences as well as traditional STEM fields and inviting diverse voices to help chart a course for an equitable future. In addition, the initiative creates public-private partnerships so that any group or industry can be part of shaping this space future.

The initiative also houses a 6,800 square foot laboratory that functions as a research and development workspace. There, external partners connect with ASU students, faculty and staff to design, build and test space hardware and software. Giving students the chance to gain experience working with this technology supports the development of a strong workforce for the growing space industry – and paves the way for other projects like Orbital Reef .

Rendering of Orbital Reef's scientific area with lab and computer workspaces
Orbital Reef’s science module. Image courtesy of Blue Origin Media.

At the heart of the Interplanetary Initiative’s current research are questions such as: how can we maintain healthy communities in space? How will we manage shared resources in space, from satellites and space debris to exploitable asteroids? How to better connect humans and robots in space exploration? And how would humanity react to the discovery of extraterrestrial life? Finding answers will help prepare humans for a more active role in space, inform Orbital Reef, and inspire the efforts of the University Consortium.

Ultimately, Orbital Reef will have significant implications not only for science or business, but for the people of this planet.

“Humans are forced to explore, it’s in our bones. We will become an interplanetary species, ”says Elkins-Tanton. “We have the opportunity to use the inspiration of space exploration to take better care of the Earth by involving all of society and fostering technological advancements that will help solve problems here on earth.”

Learn more about how ASU makes connections to advance the next chapter in the space industry.

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