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Blue Origin says it will build an orbiting mixed-use business park in space

First came the tourists. Next comes the business. Blue Origin says it will create a new privately owned space station in orbit around the Earth — what it calls a "mixed-use business park" in space.

The company announced the plan months after completing its first human space flight on the New Shepard launch vehicle, an endeavor that included taking a paying customer into space.

The new commercial space station will be called Orbital Reef, and Blue Origin — which is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — says that by the end of the 2020s, it will become "the premier mixed-use space station in low Earth orbit for commerce, research, and tourism."

"The station will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model for the future," Blue Origin said Monday as it unveiled the plan.

Potential customers for the station range from space agencies and high-tech groups to countries that don't have their own space programs, as well as media and travel companies, the company says.

Several companies are working with Blue Origin on the ambitious space station plan, including Sierra Space, maker of the reusable Dream Chaser spaceplane that is able to land at ordinary airports. Other partners include Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.

"Now, anyone can establish an address in orbit," Blue Origin said. "Orbital Reef expands access, lowers the cost, and provides everything needed to help you operate your business in space."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.