Orbital Reef: A Next-Generation Platform for In-Space Manufacturing

E.B. Wagner, T.M. Ruttley, L.E. Warren
Blue Origin,
United States

Keywords: facilities, space station, microgravity, manufacturing, commercial


Blue Origin leads a team developing and deploying a commercially owned and operated space station in low Earth orbit (LEO) named Orbital Reef. This commercial station is supported by team members Sierra Space, Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, Amazon, and Arizona State University. Orbital Reef will fly payloads and people routinely, safely, and affordably to and from LEO to serve both government and commercial markets. The Orbital Reef baseline configuration will be operational later this decade prior to ISS transition. Orbital Reef's end-to-end service provides all the necessary services and amenities required by manufacturers, researchers, and visitors alike, including space transportation and logistics, space habitation, equipment accommodations, and operations by an on-board crew. The Orbital Reef team also provides expertise in the areas of microgravity research, development and manufacturing, research advisory services, and public outreach. Orbital Reef will advance next-generation in-space manufacturing by removing barriers currently experienced in the critical path to risk reduction. Orbital Reef’s increased capacity and updated modular facilities enable scalable production involving short and long durations in microgravity. Modern logistics solutions and on-board diagnostic capabilities allow for multiple iterations so developers can quickly obtain results and progress to their next objective. Commercial access and intellectual property regimes facilitate global collaborations. On-board capabilities include support of 1) commercial facilities, 2) heritage payloads, 3) unique customer payloads and 4) multi-user facilities. We will discuss the ongoing plans and technology development efforts currently underway for Orbital Reef and how these efforts could serve the in-space manufacturing community going forward. We will also put this in the context of the larger commercial space markets Orbital Reef plans to serve.