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NASA awards contracts to three private space station projects

Capitalism in space: NASA today announced development contract awards to three different private space station projects.

  • Nanoracks Starlab concept won $160 million. Partners include Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin.
  • Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef project was awarded $130 million, partnering with Sierra Space, Boeing, and Redwire.
  • Northrop Grumman won $125.6 million on a concept based on upgrades to its Cygnus freighter.

All three contracts are Space Act agreements, designed by NASA to jumpstart the companies and their design efforts. All three are in addition to the effort by Axiom to build its own ISS modules that will eventually detach to form its own independent station.

That’s four private American space stations now in the works. All are aiming to launch before this decade is out.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Jay

    Watching the Nanoracks/Voyager/LM Starlab presentation, I thought it was a trailer for a movie!

    Interesting that Northrop Grumman had the lowest bid, but looked like it had the most to offer. Like it is stated, they already have the Cygnus freighter and looks like they are using another HALO just like the one they are developing for Gateway. No mention of it in the description but it was on their graphic – a manned Dragon docked to the station’s nadir port.

  • David K

    None of these have artificial gravity. If we are going to colonize the moon, mars, ceres, and the moons of Jupiter we need to know if humans can survive and reproduce at those gravity levels. Otherwise just forget about all that and go full O’Neil style rotating space habitats.

  • sippin_bourbon


    It is my impression that micro-grav is the point for the research and manufacturing they are considering.
    There is nothing in the NASA reqs for CLD that require it at this point.
    And no one else that has a stake in it has expressed a need or desire for s spinner yet either.

    In my own humble opinion, the first spinning station will probably be an LEO hotel for tourists.

  • The Gateway Foundation, which as far as I can tell isn’t actually doing much, has a good concept for a rotating station.

    Right now, we don’t need gravity in space – we have plenty of it on Earth. We need the micro-gravity environment to do novel things that cannot be done on the ground.

    Medium term, I entirely agree.

  • Edward

    David K,
    You wrote: “None of these have artificial gravity. If we are going to colonize the moon, mars, ceres, and the moons of Jupiter we need to know if humans can survive and reproduce at those gravity levels.

    You may be expecting too much from the first attempt by commercial companies. Let them learn the basics before they go for the more complicated designs.

    I agree that having these various gravity levels can be very useful and educational, but it looks like we are going to do the same as we had planned to do in the 1960s, learn how to live in lunar gravity by making a lunar base. SpaceX is planning to do the same on Mars.

  • Richard M

    “There is nothing in the NASA reqs for CLD that require it at this point.”


    These station proposals are merely designing for what their market is demanding right now.

    I think a variable gravity centripetal LEO station is well overdue. But someone with a pocketbook has got to want it.

  • Ken

    How detailed are these designs? Seems awfully expensive. I assume these include some sort of mockup but I didn’t see anything in the NG press release about it.

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