47 thoughts on “A New Space Station”

  1. I’d think they’d want to be co-orbital with ISS.

    ISS is only in the orbit it’s in now to accommodate the Russians. Is that still an issue? Why take the payload hit for the higher inclination?

    1. (At least) two reasons: It’s a good orbit for tourism, because you go over most of the populated areas and get to see your home from orbit, and it provides a mutual safe haven with the ISS, so you have someplace else to go if you have a problem at your facility without having to go all the way back to Earth.

      1. Maybe. I didn’t get the impression from the article you linked to that tourism was part of the business plan, more like industry and research. If tourism does take off I think polar or sun synchronous would be the way to go.

        As for problems, even assuming it’s still available, I don’t see any advantage to dropping in on ISS over returning to earth.

        1. Cost. If you return to Earth, you have to spend the money to get back in orbit. A lifeboat that goes all the way to Earth is like having a lifeboat on the Titanic that can get all the way back to Southhampton.

          1. If you return to Earth, you have to spend the money to get back in orbit.

            Yes, of course, but any problem that makes the station uninhabitable is not going to be resolved by camping out on ISS, even assuming that ISS can support the crew for an extended period. What scenario are you envisioning?

            A lifeboat that goes all the way to Earth is like having a lifeboat on the Titanic that can get all the way back to Southhampton.

            I think that analogy is unsound. The delta v required to return to earth has to be provided regardless of any emergency procedures. The station is going to have rotating crews, not permanent inhabitants.

          2. Computer problems, a life-support issue, something that might require delivery of parts from Earth. It would simply be nice to have a neighbor you could borrow a cup of sugar from. Plus, if it’s a tourist hotel, you could offer day trips to tour the only national lab that doesn’t currently provide that.

          3. I think ISS crews are more likely to need a lifeboat than crews in a brand new station. What I don’t understand is why LockMart would be chosen to build an inflatable station, instead of Bigelow. Bob’s technology is absolutely rock-solid. Of course, I’ve lost track of his company since “retiring.”

          4. Last I heard, Bigelow had laid off 100% of its employees and is effectively defuct. I’m sure their engineers have moved on, as both LM and Sierra are working on inflatables now. Axiom, by contrast, is using ISS technology, modules built by Thales, and even repurposing one of the old MPLMs (Donatello, I think) to be rebuilt as the Axiom lab module.

      2. A 40 or 45 degree inclination will cover most populated places on earth. And how much longer is ISS going to be functional?

  2. The Axiom Station will be in the same orbit as ISS, since it will start as an appendage of same. I was thinking the other day when it comes time to “retire” ISS, it doesn’t have to go all at once. ISS has an old part (Russian Segment, Node 1, Destiny, Quest Airlock, and the Truss) and a new part (Node 2, Columbus, Kibo, Node 3, Leonardo, Bishop, BEAM, and Cupola). Axiom Hub 1 will be attached to Node 2, so if you break at the Destiny berthing port, Node 2 and its appendages go with Axiom. Then if you attached Node 3 (with appendages) to the Node 2 nadir berthing port, that all goes too, leaving just the original (1998-2003) pieces to splash.

    Tiangong is in a 40deg orbit. The Russian Orbital Service Station will be in a 98deg orbit (if built). Plenty of angles left for other LEO stations. It’s probably time for an orbital hotel. Too bad Bigelow didn’t make it.

  3. Axiom seems the most real of the proposed new LEO stations. This proposal could well shoulder Sierra Space aside for 2nd place on the credibility list. I think Sierra Space is going to have to firmly commit to its own space station plans fairly soon – or take a definitive pass.

    The Russians are a joke. With Roscosmos set to take 50% in budget cuts over the next three years, there will never be an all-Russian station anywhere. Even their recent commitments to their Chinese “partners” anent the Moon are likely to fail of accomplishment. I foresee the complete death of Russian manned spacefaring before this decade is out.

    1. That’s the conventional wisdom, but I think it’s wrong for a number of reasons. For starters, if you look into the background of the Chinese space station, you can see many of the components have Cyrillic letter, spelling out Russian words. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Tianhe is a Russian DOS module, built from Russian blueprints, with some components bought from Russia (the ISS Zvezda module ius techincally DOS-8). The labs to be added next year are both what Russians call NEM (science-energy) modules, of similar provenance. So I think Roskosmos and the Russian engineering agencies are earning hard currency selling pieces and parts to China, just like they sold pieces and parts to us (the US owns the Zarya FGB module, because we bought it from them).

      That said, the peices and parts for ROSS more or less already exist (there is a backup nodal module already is existence, and the two NEM modules originally intended for ISS already exist somewhere, at least as pieces and parts). That’s the bare minimum Russian Orbital Service Station. Illustrations show one or more docking modules (like Pirs and Poisk) added in, and also something that looks like a backup Rassvet. We’ll see. The Prichal nodal modules is going up to ISS in a few weeks. The first NEM was supposed to go up to ISS in 2024. I guess we’ll see.

      Finally, the Soyuz/Progress factory is still churning out 4+ spacecraft a year (in addition to pieces it may be selling to China for Shenzhou components). A new model, Soyuz GVK is supposed to make its first flight next year. That doesn’t sound like a failing space program to me. They’re having problems, yes, but is that much different than Boeing’s Starliner issues?

      And, postscript, the Chinese new moonship, already test flown unmanned once, us a carbon copy of the Russian’s upcoming Oryol spacecraft. Maybe the Russian programs are lagging because Roskosmos keeps selling of hardware to China?

      1. You fail to address the key issue – money. No rubles, no Buck Rublov. The Russians can barely support what they’re doing now on the current post-Soyuz-seat-and-RD-180-based budget. Hence the mad scramble for space tourism dollars. Can they do still more on half-rations? I don’t think so.

        Putin doesn’t seem to care much about space anyway. Russia doesn’t have enough money to buy new ballistic missiles, nuclear subs, tanks and planes for its military – all of which are higher Putin priorities. He was content to let Rogozin have Western earnings while there still were some. But a willingness to continue upkeep on the Potemkin Village of Russian manned spaceflight appears absent in the equal absence of easy Western money.

        As for the Chinese, whether they stole, bought or did some of each to get Mir, Soyuz and Oryol tech, those are all long-since done deals. Nothing more of consequence will be forthcoming from Beijing because the Russians are all out of things to sell.

        1. Actually, I did address the money issue: I said I thought Roskosmos and the Russian aerospace agencies were earning hard currency selling pieces and parts to China. Corruption and payoffs aside, some of that money has to wind up put back into the enterprise. People love to talk about Potemkin this and Potemkin that, but without evidence beyond wishful thinking. In order for the Russians to be out of things to sell to China, China has to be sourcing its space program internally. So far, they are not (as evidenced by components in new modules labeled in Russian–do we believe when the Chinese copy a Russian dohickey they copy the Russian labels). When the Russian space program ceases to exist (as evidenced by, for example, ending production of Soyuz/Progress and the Soyuz LV), then you might be right. Not until. Too many people overlook a simple fact: If any expendable LV is cheaper than Falcon 9, it’s Soyuz 2.1. The R-7 derivitives have flown many thousands of times. The Soyuz/Progress spacecraft have flown many hundreds of times. Meanwhile, quit reciting fantasy memes, they prove nothing.

          1. A couple of minor points:

            There’s no “mad scramble” for tourist money because there’s no tourist money. As near as I can tell, Yusaku Maezawa is Space Adventures’ only customer, as witness the cancellation of the Space Adventures free flyer. They couldn’t sell the seats at their price point. Isaacman bought his seats directly from SpaceX (and Musk refunded $50mln afterward). Axiom will sell seats to any takers, but I think NASA will buy unsold Axiom seats to help fund the new module, and to give its Artemis rookies some flight experience. I also think Maezawa is the customer for the 2023 tourist-EVA Soyuz flight. One customer is not exactly a mad scramble.

            The other point is this: if it weren’t for SpaceX, the US would have a Potemkin space program. Currently, outside of SpaceX Falcon 9, the US has zero orbital launch vehicles in production. Antares is largely foreign made (rocket in Ukraine, engines in Russia) and has no commercial customers. Atlas and Delta are out of production, remaining vehicles sold. Vulcan has yet to fly. New Glenn has yet to fly.

            Meanwhile, the Russian’s R-7 based launcher comes in three production variants (2.1 A, B, and V) and has 6 launch pads at 4 launch sites (Plesetsk, Vostochny, Baikonur, and Kourou). It also has the Angara finally in production, with two variants (1.2 and 5 flying from two pads at two site. Looks like we have the Russian Space Program and the SpaceX Space Program. (Japan, China, India, and ESA are separate matters, of course.)

          2. And one funny dohickey item: I was looking into the background of a publicity shot showing the lovely Yulia Persild floating in the Russian Orbital Segment. And there I spied box labeled “Food Warmer” in English. I guess it works both way.

          3. So you assume away the money issue by simply assuming there is money coming into the Russian space program from China. I don’t doubt the Chinese paid the Russkies for at least some of the tech they’ve gotten over the years, but there is no credible evidence that such a flow continues at any significant level. Blithely assuming otherwise more than casually resembles the “secret government money” that the Elon-haters used to solemnly assure me was keeping SpaceX covertly afloat.

            That Russia is in excruciatingly bad shape economically is neither a mere “meme” nor a wishful thought. It is merely the truth. The Russians seem completely unable to get beyond prototype production of any new weapon system and can’t even continue producing systems that were developed well before the money crunch of the the last few years came. The Russians have not, for example, been able to start a new nuclear submarine of any kind for several years and cannot even seem to finish the ones already partially completed on the ways.

            So the idea that it’s root, hog or die time in the Russian space patch is hardly a matter of fantasy. What is a fantasy is revisiting the glories of Soviet/Russian space exploits past as though that has anything to do with what Russia is capable of going forward – i.e., not much and getting to be less and less all the time. As the financial services ads reminds us, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

          4. You badly misinterpret my remark about a “mad scramble” for space tourism. Said scramble is on the part of the Russians. Absent tourist revenues, Roscosmos will have to rely on central government funding only – for which rations three years of progressive cuts have recently been announced.

            You could well be right that Maezawa is the only current Russian customer. But the health, or lack of same, on the part of the Russian space tourism business is no gauge of the health of the orbital tourism market as a whole. The only other current provider, SpaceX, claims to have a lot of serious inquiries in the wake of Inspiration4.

            That Space Adventures has come up dry is unsurprising. They’re a middleman/broker operation and have never one a successful deal with anyone but the Russians. Now that NASA’s view of space tourism has changed 180 degrees from what it was two decades ago, there is really no advantage to be had by any Westerner in dealing with Space Adventures unless they’re bound and determined to ride a Soyuz for some reason. As you note, everyone else can deal with Axiom if the ISS is part of the plan or with SpaceX directly if not.

            I certainly can’t argue that the non-SpaceX/legacy contractor part of the U.S. space program is all but moribund. Fortunately, there are several new entrants looking to replace the depleted and defeated veteran players over the next few years.

            As for the Russians, the Rocket, Dnepr, Zenit and Proton are all gone. Angara is problematical. Only R-7 derivatives really remain. How much longer that continues to be true is also problematical. Beyond another dozen or so OneWeb launches over the next year or two, the Soyuz launcher has no commercial hard-currency customers. OneWeb has already announced it intends to launch future satellites, beyond those already contracted for launch on Soyuz, on Indian vehicles.

          5. Two points, without making a wall of text:

            Dick, I think you’re spinning this to make your point, and not dealing with what I said. There’s no “secret government money” involved here. The Chinese are buying off the shelf equipment from the Russians and installing it in Tiangong because it’s cheaper and easier that way. The evidence is in the photos, where we plainly see Russian hardware, identified by Russian text printed on it. I also noted there’s a toaster oven in the Russian ISS segment labeled “Food Warmer” in English. Maybe they bought it on Amazon? The point about hard currency is, no one accepts roubles or renminbi as hard currency, but the Chinese have dollars and euros to spend on Russian dohickeys.

            The other point is, the Russians are still selling engines to the US, even though Atlas is done. But every Antares launches with two Russian-made RD-191 engines. Not as much, but still an inflow of hard currency.

            I think people don’t fully understand how different the Russian economy is from ours. Some years back, a think tank denizen baffled by Russia, said they didn’t understand how such a backward county could develop and operate an advanced technology. “Russia is like India with spaceships.” The better irony is, now the real India has spaceships and nuclear weapons. Funny about that…

          6. I’ll see if this works, as the thread is bloating:

            Proton is not gone yet (Kazakhstan has approved continued use recently). Zenit is only semi gone because of the Ukranian part. The RD-170-series engines are still available, and will be used for the Soyuz-5 family. The “Irtysh” version is a direct replacement for Zenit and will fly soonish (a we’ll see thing). It also looks like Angara is finally in production, so probably no longer “problematic.”

            It also looks like I was wrong about the tourist money not existing beyond Maezawa, since Roskosmos has announced two more tourist Soyuzi in 2024. No other info yet.

            It’s interesting about the Indian launchers. Those are the only one cheaper than R-7 derivitives and competitive with Falcon 9. And they’ll soon have a crewed vehicle. They could eat Russia’s lunch, if they get reliability up, all other things being equal (which ignores the Starship elephant in the room).

  4. A private space station, and private transportation to and from it, are both next steps to getting people (not a half-dozen astronauts) off the rock, and I am very happy at it.

    I’m sorry that it’s taken so long – I was promised, in my youth, an opportunity to be a participant. I dare say I’m too old now (Despite Shatner).

    1. I’m 71 and would probably do fine in either a Dragon or Soyuz. Klim Shipenko had to lose 33 pounds to fit in his Sokol spacesuit last month. I’d probably only need to lose 15…

      1. Yup we design the seats and suits to tailor at a maximum waistline of 32″. So slim down. Obviously obesity was solved by the 23rd Century judging by the crew of the Enterprise in TOS. I wonder if it involved the Transporter?

    2. “…I dare say I’m too old now (Despite Shatner).”

      I loved Gutfeld’s take on Shatner’s flight. Paraphrasing, he said that at 90, Shatner was the oldest person to fly into space. Scientists said that they thought that at some point, Shatner had taken control of the spacecraft because its turn signal was on for the rest of the flight.

  5. No cupola? I guess you’ll have to settle for views out your capsule. Hey this is serious business or research! Get back to work you!
    Finish the job or you’re fired! And that means NO RIDE HOME!

  6. So, my question is, Would this new “commercial” station truly be able to sustain itself financially just from commercial customers or will they be mostly funded via government space budgets and, if so, for how long — indefinitely? If so then it should be compare to what could be accomplished if that funding instead purchased flights on Starship to the Moon and Mars. i.e. the opportunity cost of this station.

    1. Axiom is basically a company founded and run by former NASA managers, and I think it’s mainly building a clandestine ISS replacement. As an independent station, it’s set up for a crew of 8. If they do it my way (make off with the Node 2 and 3 segments), it’d house 12. Node 2 houses the USOS crew quarters. Node 3 houses the USOS life support system and two bathrooms. Line everything up fore to aft AxH2, AxH1, Node 2, Node 3, put a baseline Gateway (HALO + PPE) on the aft end, and you’ve got something more or less better than ISS.

      1. I got a chance to talk to Christine Kretz, Vice President of Commercial Innovation Programs and Partnerships at CASIS (ISS National Lab) today. I asked her point-blank “what happens to CASIS when ISS is deorbited?” She said there is an RFI on the street now for non-ISS orbital capacity… and that “we’re quite sure we’ll have commercial options available in time.”

        Take with salt.

    2. How “commercial” such stations turn out to be is a good question, the answer to which seems very much TBD. The only established commercial market for space stations to this point has been as tourism destinations. For small stations served by small transport vehicles, the economics of a purely tourist orientation look marginal. At least one much larger destination served by a much larger vehicle (Starship) seems prerequisite to making pure tourism a viable proposition.

      Calculating opportunity costs is trickier, especially if the main activity at space stations becomes self-supporting tourism. In such a case, those “costs” would be effectively zero.

  7. It seems new station should be at zero inclination.
    And that means a new spaceport- on the ocean at the equator.
    And Space Force should help {somehow} to make this more possible.
    If everything was in zero inclination, there not a space debris problem.
    Musk thinks to do Mars settlements, he needs to launch from the Ocean.
    Anyone thinking doing commercial in space should be envisioning at some point, large numbers of launches per year. Maybe not as much as Musk envisions, but a lot more than we are currently doing.
    Space debris seems to growing concern- which suggest government is going to add a lot red tape on the topic. Why not be where one in a position of having a “better argument” about it? “Not us, it’s the other guys- you should paying us because we are in zero inclination”.
    And if going to have station, how about refueling spacecraft. And/or launch satellites/spacecraft from station?
    Should discuss the idea I had back in 1998, which call pipelauncher?
    About my latest “interest” regarding ocean settlement- the key aspect is having cheap floating breakwaters which include a weird idea making freshwater lakes on the ocean?
    A pipelauncher type thing, could function as tower to catch rockets- I thinking using them load rockets on pipelauncher. But since Musk might able to catch rockets, they could do that also.

    1. The space debris problem is like the climate change problem, exaggerated by people making money off it. Hey, if the Russians adapted Soyuz/Progress for launch from Kourou, they could reach ROSS, ISS, Tiangong (CSS), and an equatorial station from the same launch pad. It wouldn’t take much work, since they already have a Soyuz-2 pad there, a payload integration building that could handle Soyuz/Progress, and a small army of trained techies in place,

      1. We have wasted trillions of dollars on the “climate change problem”. And this “global industry” is 2 to 3 times larger than the global space industry.
        And politicians appear be more stupid than they have ever been, so one should generally count on more money wasted on this scam.

        But if this scam were to end tomorrow, some other crazy religion will be found to fill the vacuum- and we could be pining for good old days of global warming cargo cult.

        The best place to launch rockets into space is from the equator.
        Ocean transport can move around big things- like rockets.
        I suggest we build lakes on Mars. And lakes in the tropical ocean on Earth.
        One thing, 1 km diameter freshwater lake at the equator, is lot cheaper than 1 km diameter freshwater lake on Mars.

    2. Space Force can rent space onboard a private space station for ‘scientific research’, with a couple of members rotating in and out.

    3. A tower which loads or catching rockets, could be designed to be more 100 meter above the waterline, and also disappear below the waterline, within short period of time {less 1/2 minute}.

    4. Oh, also launch window to station and from station is within 2 hours- you go to station for several hours and return to Earth surface. Getting to spaceport, go to station, and return to your home on Earth within one day.
      Going to space, on Saturday, and be back before Sunday.
      You might want to sleep in space, but you don’t have to.

  8. Before 2027 you just be able to buy a Starship from SpaceX. Leave off the wings and control surfaces and voila – instant space station.

    1. There’s a lot of SpceX fans, some of them good artists, drawing pictures of that. Mainly you wind up with SkylabX. Inflexible compared to modularized, but it’d probably make a pretty good space hotel. (Or, you could just make Starship-sized modules on your way to a really big space station…)

  9. One thing we shouldn’t overlook is, this is Nanoracks space station, not a tourist hotel or general purpose whatever. Nanoracks has equipment at ISS (the nanosat launcher in Kibo and the Bishop airlock on Node 3). If that’s still worth anything in 2027, they want to take it with them, either by docking Starlab to ISS and making the transfer, or hauling it down and then back up. And the main question is, what orbital inclination serves Nanoracks’ needs best?

  10. What is up at the plate is lunar exploration.
    Will humans land on lunar polar region within four years?
    And/or will have a lot of robotic lunar missions to the lunar polar
    region within 4 years?
    And then what will be discovered regarding lunar water and/or other aspect regarding the Moon within 4 years.

    It seems in terms crew lunar missions happening within short time period a lot is riding on what happens in regard to SpaceX Starship.

    In terms of NASA’s risk of depending on SpaceX efforts, it seems NASA should focusing a lot on Lunar robotic missions to the Moon.
    I have always thought that NASA should heavily depend on robotic
    lunar exploration. Or in terms lunar program exploration budget, I thought NASA should start with robotic missions and robotic missions should be 1/2 of lunar explorational budget.
    NASA didn’t do that, but it still can and still should do that.

    And as things have appeared to have “worked out”. it seems that argument is an better argument {not that I predicted Starship coming a long]. And idea was to continue with Mars exploration program which also had 1/2 Mars budget be for Mars robotic programs. And it seems from recent articles, NASA is focusing a fair amount on Lunar robotic mission- articles say is massive robotic effort, but I am not confident, it’s massive enough.

    Anyhow in terms of commercial space station, it should be related to Lunar and Mars exploration, and possible results from such exploration.

  11. Silly space pipedream dept: “Americanized” Soyuz launching from Wallops on an Antares 230+. Instant crew vehicle for NG, instant revenue for Russia. It could reach ISS and Tiangong. Of course, the Americanized bit would be taping English labels over the controls.

Comments are closed.