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Billionaires may be commercializing space by renting out their rockets to NASA to send payloads aloft or by tossing up wealthy thrill-seekers for joyrides in zero gravity, but Orbital Reef has taken the idea to a different scale.
It’s creating a space station in low Earth orbit for rent or lease to research scientists, product developers, filmmakers, even people who might want to operate a space hotel.
For its customers, Orbital Reef will provide “end-to-end” services, including planning and any needed training; an on-board crew of humans and robots to keep the station running smoothly; medical attendants; a state-of-the-art lab; high-bandwidth telecommunications; and cybersecurity.
Then there are the amenities, including oversize hatches to make it easy to get in and out, large windows looking out onto Earth’s middle latitudes, comfortable living quarters, and even recreational facilities.
“Experience the thrill of weightlessness in complete comfort,” the company urges; “see sixteen vibrant sunrises and sunsets a day while flying over all of humanity.”
The venture is a partnership between two space-oriented businesses.
Sierra Space, a division of Sierra Nevada Corp., is the developer of the Dream Chaser spaceplane, resembling NASA’s old space shuttles and capable of making round trips to deliver crew and cargo to space stations in low Earth orbit.
NASA has contracted it to make six trips to the International Space Station.
Sierra also makes what it calls a Large Integrated Flexible Environment module, a pod for living and working in outer space.
Its partner is Blue Origins, Jeff Bezos’s company created to commercialize space travel.
Orbital Reef says its all-purpose space hangout will be in place by 2030.
Lest anyone think this is another of Jeff Bezos’s personal indulgences, Orbital Reef counts 14 universities, led by Arizona State University, among the members of its advisory council.
TRENDPOST: Orbital Reef’s notion of “space for rent” challenges our impression of outer space as a distant and dangerous place where people endure extreme conditions to do advanced science. 
It replaces that conceptual frame with one that sees space simply as another patch of commercial real estate that creates opportunities for new kinds of commerce as well as opening new career paths and new areas of technological focus.

Artist’s conception of the Orbital Reef.
Photo credit: Orbital Reef

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