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Blue Origin and Sierra Space to End Orbital Reef Partnership

Blue Origin
Credit: Blue Origin.

Ibadan, 5 October 2023 – Blue Origin and Sierra Space may soon end a corporate partnership they formed years ago to build the commercial space station Orbital Reef.

In 2021, Blue Origin announced its partnership to build what it envisioned as a “business park in space” with Sierra Space, a spinoff from defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. In low Earth orbit, Orbital Reef would have functioned as a microgravity science laboratory for companies and Government agencies and a destination for tourists, among other uses.

Shortly after disclosing the Orbital Reef project, Blue Origin also won a $130 million contract from NASA for design work on the private space station. However, NASA spokesperson Rebecca Wickes told CNBC in a statement that the agency has so far paid Blue Origin $24 million of the total contract amount for completing specified milestones. As of yet, “there are no current plans to transfer the agreement,” Wickes said.

People familiar with both companies have also pointed out that seemingly both Blue Origin and Sierra Space no longer see the Orbital Reef as a top priority. According to those sources, Blue Origin’s interests shifted after the company won a $3.4 billion NASA contract to build a crew lunar lander (the space station and lunar lander programs compete for resources in the same business unit).

Likewise, Sierra Space is directing its resources towards getting the initial cargo variation of its reusable Dream Chaser spaceplane flying. The company has been developing Dream Chaser for more than a decade, under contract to fly cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. Sierra Space also announced a series A fundraising worth $1.4 billion after Blue Origin’s announcement.

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