Engineering 101

Privatized Space Platforms Rise to Meet ISS Research Demands

The International Space Station (I.S.S.) is the largest modular space station currently in low-Earth orbit and has a long backlog of research projects lined up. Orbital Assembly, a company from Hunstville, Alabama, is announcing a new program to help get science into space.

“We’re now providing space program and mission support services for the utilization of a new class of private space platforms that are coming online to supplement the I.S.S…,” says Rhonda Stevenson, C.E.O. of Orbital Assembly.

O.A. hopes to offer a framework that will streamline an affordable path to hosting the first payload and enabling subsequent missions to achieve in-orbit program goals. Its Pioneer-class station business parks are the world’s first and largest hybrid space stations, and may be the first free-flying, habitable, privately-operated facilities in orbit. They will have orders of magnitude more volume than the I.S.S. currently has for hosted payloads.

The company plans to lease space to a mix of commercial, private, academic, research, and industrial customers, offering a wide range of in-orbit capabilities, including manufacturing parts on demand from glass, aluminum, steel, plastics, and other exotic materials.

O.A. can host payloads designed for CubeSat, I.S.S. Express Rack, or standard server rack formats and digital payloads deployed on-premises. They will provide access to sensor and payload data feeds and additional amenities, including installation, power, water/gas inputs, vacuum exhaust, the ability to dissipate heat, and even a human presence if needed. They believe space manufacturing can benefit many fields, like power services, organ printing, semiconductor production, and other markets.

“Leveraging OA’s expertise to conduct program and mission design studies will enable customers to plan more efficiently and envision the first and subsequent steps by planning for a series of missions at the outset,” Stevenson says.

In the future, the Pioneer Station will offer variable gravity capabilities that provide unique properties to materials and processes.

 

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