Having helped build up a generation of success and expertise from the existing International Space Station (ISS), the Russians want to go it alone and build the world’s first commercial space station. Russia’s Orbital Technologies and rocket company RSC Energia want to see their project in space by 2015-2016.
An American venture, backed by Bigelow Aerospace, has a similar project underway and with a target date of 2015.
The new Russian plan calls for their orbiting platform to be placed almost – in space terms – alongside the ISS, just 62 miles away. Orbital project will be open to space tourists but will also provide a “hub for commercial activity, scientific research and development in low Earth orbit,” according to reports. Orbital says it already has contracts with a number of industry customers involved in medical research and protein crystallization, geographic imaging, remote sensing, and materials processing. “Once launched and operational, the CSS will provide a unique destination for commercial, state and private spaceflight exploration missions,” said Sergey Kostenko, chief executive of Orbital Technologies.
The Bigelow version also has a space tourism role, and will open its platform to scientists as well as corporations. One report said the American project will be a “space hotel”. This is partly blamed on the expertise of Bigelow themselves, which is funded by Robert Bigelow, who owns the Budget Suites hotel chain in the USA.