NASA Low Earth Orbit Platform Utilization (commercial space stations)

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ISS won't live forever, and NASA has been talking about using commercial stations since ~2012. 




AKA Commercial LEO Development (CLD) program.


Potential players: Axiom Space, Bigelow Aerospace (they've re-opened), Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), Northrop-Grumman




NASA to offer funding for initial studies of commercial space stations


WASHINGTON — NASA is shifting direction in its effort to support development of commercial space stations in low Earth orbit, with plans to issue a series of awards for initial studies before later purchasing services.


At a March 23 industry briefing, agency officials outlined what it calls the Commercial LEO Development (CLD) program, which will start with a set of two to four funded Space Act Agreements with companies to help with the initial design of their proposed orbital facilities. A draft announcement of proposals is scheduled for release in April followed by the final version in May.


Those awards, planned for the fourth quarter of 2021 with a combined value of $300 million to $400 million, will cover work from fiscal years 2022 to 2025 to advance the design of proposed commercial space stations to at least the preliminary design review level. ...
A second phase of the program, slated to begin in 2026, would cover NASA certification of commercial LEO space stations and procuring services in the form of access to them for both payloads and astronauts. ...



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These companies responded to the NASA CLD solicitation.

Seeing SpaceX is no surprise. Notable absence: Bigelow.


SpaceX could, of course, provide transportation but Starship could be a returnable laboratory on its own. If return isn't an issue, such as docking several to a node, Starship HLS (lunar) has the nose docking port and dual airlocks with a common suit prep room. Extra points if there are ways to open the upper and common domes to create more volume.




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