One company has a bold new plan for some of the space junk floating around in orbit above our heads.
Commercial space company NanoRacks, perhaps best known for deploying small satellites called cubesats, aims to transform sections of used rockets into orbiting labs, storage containers or even luxury hotel rooms.
The company announced the launch of its Space Outpost Program on Tuesday. It will begin by repurposing a spent upper-stage rocket into an outpost called Independence-1.
A look at how the interior of a spent rocket booster could be converted into a livable space outpost.
NanoRacks was one of six companies that partnered with NASA to look into the feasibility of creating different types of deep-space habitats. The company initially called its design “Ixion” and proposes taking a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket upper stage that has used all its fuel and using either crew or robots to retro-fit the inside with life support systems and other infrastructure to create a livable habitat.
The below video rendering shows how robots might be used to conduct the conversion:
The model actually follows in the footsteps of NASA, which built Skylab inside a spent Saturn V rocket fuel tank, although it was repurposed on the ground and then launched into orbit.
There could also be competition for the concept very soon, as startup Orion Span hopes to launch a luxury space hotel called Aurora Station to low-earth orbit by 2022.
NanoRacks sees several possible uses for a revamped rocket, including tourism, expanding the International Space Station or serving as an orbiting fuel depot for other space missions.
The next step is to assemble a prototype on the ground at NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Alabama. NanoRacks also tells me it’s in discussions with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, to identify which upcoming ULA rocket launch will go on to provide the shell for Independence-1.
NanoRacks expects to announce more specifics before the end of 2018.
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