Humans will increasingly travel to space in the next decades, with a variety of luxury space station options, like a Blue Origin business park and Voyager hotel.   

Over 600 people have traveled to space, including more than 250 who visited the International Space Station (ISS) since Yuri Gagarin launched the first single orbit around the planet April 12, 1961.

The ISS is beginning to age and both Russia and the USA are eager to replace it. NASA looks to the private sector for the opportunity to keep humans safely in low-Earth orbit.

A variety of ideas have been suggested for future commercial space stations, including Orbital Reef (a huge’space business park’), developed by Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos. 

By 2027 this ‘address-in-orbit’ would be functional and capable of accommodating up to ten persons at once. 

However, a major driver of commercial space is expected to be tourism, and with that in mind the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC) proposed the rotating Voyager Station.

It would house up to 400 people and provide ‘pods for scientists, researchers and governments.

Future space stations could also include floating laboratories, which can be linked by hatches to other versions of existing spacecraft such as Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus.

Many of these proposals may be made by the decade’s end, as the ISS will reach its’safety lifespan’, which is when it should cease to exist – ending the government’s monopoly on low Earth orbit.

A number of concepts for future commercial space stations have been proposed, including the massive Orbital Reef 'space business park', developed by a consortium led by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin (pictured)

A variety of ideas have been suggested for future commercial space stations, including Orbital reef’space business parks’. These were developed by the Blue Origin consortium, led by Jeff Bezos (pictured).

Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), the Voyager Station could be operational as early as 2027, with the infrastructure built in orbit around the Earth and providing space for 400 people in 'lunar gravity' conditions

The Voyager Station was developed by OAC (Orbital Assembly Corporation). It could become operational in 2027. With the infrastructure in orbit around Earth, it will provide space for 400 people under ‘lunar gravity.


NASA has selected three firms for a share of a $415.6 million pot:

  1. Orbital Reef, a Blue Origin-led Project will receive $130m
  2. Starlab, a Lockheed Martin and Nanoracks station called Starlab will receive $160
  3. A Northrup Grumman platform built on the Cygnus spacecraft by Northrup Grumman will be awarded $125.6 million

This initial fund will serve as a ‘get-started’ capital. All future investment is expected to be from the private sector. 

21 years have passed since humans first arrived on board the ISS. It has been permanently occupied every day since. However, its lifespan is estimated to only be 15 years. The core structure of the ISS is deteriorating despite constant improvements and additions.  

NASA is finally making moves to fund the station.

The company has allocated $415.6million and will divide it among three organizations. The money will be used to finance the initial investigation, design and analysis for a private space station. 

Blue Origin’s Orbital reef project is one example. Another option is a Nanoracks- and Lockheed Martin station called Starlab. A Northrup Grumman platform, which was built on NASA’s Cygnus spacecraft, can also be found.

They all hope to have their respective facilities operational by the middle decade. NASA will be the main customer but most of the financing comes from commercial sources.

The Axiom station will be their home. It will launch as the first commercial module of the ISS.    

Our goal is to build platforms that NASA, other agencies and private customers can use, even for tourism. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “Building upon our success in partnering with private industry, to deliver cargo and now our NASA astronauts,” that NASA has once again led the way for commercialization of space activities. 

Below are a selection of these proposals. These include those made by private entities that were not directly funded through NASA’s ‘ISS Replacement’ program. 

Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef 

Blue Origin plans to use $130 NASA funding for the development of its Orbital Reef Space Station, first unveiled five week ago in partnership between Sierra Space and Boeing.

Jeff Bezos funded consortium plans to launch the initial module for the station in second-half of this decade. The goal is to expand the platform by end of decade.  

Orbital Reef is an alliance of several firms including Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Boeing. They each provide different elements.

According to current expectations, the Boeing Starliner that is in financial trouble will soon be operational and able to transport passengers to Orbital Reef in the latter 2020s. 

The Jeff Bezos-backed consortium aims to launch the first module in the station in the second half of this decade, expanding the platform by the end of the decade

Jeff Bezos-backed consortium intends to launch the initial module for the station in second half of 2010, expanding the platform by end of decade 

Orbital Reef is a consortium of a number of firms, including Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering, and Arizona State University, each providing different elements

Orbital Reef is an alliance of several firms including Redwire Space and Genesis Engineering. Each firm provides different elements. 

The group says it will be a space park that can serve multiple uses and provide the infrastructure necessary to sustain all kinds of spaceflight activity, including human ones.

This tagline is “Your address in Space”, suggesting that it could be used by some companies as an orbital base.

“Features like reusable space transport and advanced automation reduce cost and simplify the process to make it affordable for a wider range of people.

“Accommodations and vehicle docking ports can be scaled to meet market demand.”

The International Space Station will soon be comparable in size once it is fully operational. It can support 10 persons, one more than that of the ISS.

Orbital Reef says it will rent locations at a scale that suits your vision whether you’re looking to film in microgravity or open a space hotel.

We sell only utilities that you will need for your business to survive: cooling, power, high-bandwidth, data and security, robot servicing, technical attention, stowage and logistics.

Nanoracks Starlab

Nanoracks is currently building a commercial low-Earth orbit location with Voyager Space, Lockheed Martin. It has been named Starlab.

Scheduled to launch in 2027 with one flight, this station is a “continuously crewed commercial space station, dedicated to advanced research, and encouraging commercial industrial activity.” 

Nanoracks' commercial low-Earth orbit destination is being built with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin and has been given the name Starlab (pictured), a four person station expected to launch by 2027

Nanoracks is currently building a commercial low-Earth orbit location with Voyager Space, Lockheed Martin. The station has been named Starlab (pictured). It will be able to hold four people and launch in 2027.

Starlab was designed to support four astronauts. The spacecraft will also have the same power, volume and payload capabilities as the International Space Station.   

Starlab Space Station’s core elements include an inflatable habitat that Lockheed Martin designed and constructed, as well as a Power and Propulsion Elements, an Iron Docking Node, large robotic arms to service cargo and payloads and the George Washington Carver Science Park (GWC). 

GWC Science Park will be a high-tech laboratory facility that hosts a range of scientific, research, and manufacturing capabilities.  

‘Starlab is the confluence of Lockheed Martin’s rich space expertise and history, Nanoracks’ innovation, and Voyager’s financial savvy,’ said Lisa Callahan from Lockheed Martin.

“This team has the capability to assist NASA with its mission to improve access to LEO and create a commercial space economy.

Northrop Grumman station 

Northrop Grumman does not yet have a name for its next space station. However, it says that the mission is a modular and commercially viable destination in low-Earth orbit. 

This design uses flight-proven components, like the Cygnus cargo ship that delivers cargo to the International Space Station. It will also be capable of supporting four crew members simultaneously.

It will serve as a foundation module that can be extended to include science, industry experimentation and building infrastructure.

Northrop Grumman is yet to reveal the name of its craft, but notes it will enable 'sustainable commercial-based missions where NASA does not bear all the costs, but serves as one of many customers'

Northrop Grumman will not reveal the name, but it notes that the craft can be used for’sustainable commercial-based mission where NASA does the majority of the cost, but still serves as one customer’

According to the company, multiple docking ports are possible for future expansion in order to provide support for crew analog habitats, labs, crew airlocks and facilities that can produce artificial gravity. This will enable crews to be able support many customers.

It is the least realised of the three finalist projects, with the firm planning to use the money from NASA to provide a detailed proposals.

These include a commercialisation plan, operations and capabilities plan as well as requirements for space stations, mission success criteria, risk assessment, market analyses, key technical requirements and preliminary design activities. 

Northrop Grumman includes Dynetics in its team. Other partners will be announced.

“Under this agreement the Northrop Grumman Team will deliver a flying space station design free of charge that is focused commercial operations to satisfy the needs of an expanding LEO marketplace,” said Steve Krein (Vice President, Civil and Commercial Space, Northrop Grumman). 

“Our station will allow a smooth transition between International Space Station-based LEO mission to commercially-based sustainable missions, where NASA doesn’t bear all costs but is one of many customers.” 

Axiom Space 

The International Space Station had a 15-year expected lifespan when it was first taken into orbit by US and Russian astronauts in November 2000.

The current extension has been made to 2025. It is currently expected that it will be in operation until at least 2030. Axiom Space launched the first commercially-available module in 2024.

Axiom Space has the most developed of the commercial stations, and will initially launch as a module attached to the International Space Station in 2024 (pictured, as it will be when complete)

Axiom Space’s most advanced commercial station will first launch attached to the International Space Station 2024. (Photo: It will also be complete when it is).

Axiom plans to ultimately detach their commercial module from the ISS and use them as a foundation for a complete commercial space station in 2030.  

Axiom Station, once assembled, will almost double the volume of International Space Station. 

NASA has already begun working with Axiom to design and implement the first commercial module. This will be linked to the ISS via a docking port or passageway. 

Axiom does not belong to the NASA 2-stage plan to replace ISS with a commercial orbiter, it is an independently developed project. 

The agency plans to certify various platforms to NASA crew use for the second phase – thus it will be able to send astronauts there and buy services.

NASA states that this strategy will deliver services at a reduced cost to the government. 

Voyager Space Hotel  

Voyager Station, designed and developed by OAC. It will be an OAC-operated space hotel with 400 beds.  

The Gateway Foundation will manage some of the 24 modules. These will include crew quarters and water, power, and air. These modules will include a kitchen, bar, and other facilities that are essential for those who plan to stay on station long-term.

Private companies or governments can lease the modules. The station could be used by government agencies to store their science modules or to train astronauts in preparation for going to Mars. 

The space station will be a large circle and rotate to generate artificial gravity that will be set at a similar level to the gravity found on the surface of the Moon

Space station will rotate in a large circle to create artificial gravity. This gravity will be similar to that found on the Moon’s surface.

Each one of the 24 habitation modules is 20 m long by 12 m wide. They will each have a unique function, ranging from movie theaters to hotel rooms.

They also plan to add viewing rooms, concerts venues, bars and libraries, as well as gyms and spas. This ship will travel around the globe every 90 minutes. 

The team plans to first test their concept using a smaller-scale prototype station as well as a microgravity facility that is free to fly, similar to the International Space Station.

John Blincow (founder of Gateway Foundation) stated that “this will be the next Industrial Revolution” and added it would create a new industry in space.  

NASA projects that NASA’s future requirements in low Earth orbit will call for continuous accommodation and training of at least two crewmembers.

It also needs to have the capability of supporting a national space laboratory. This would be run by commercial astronauts, who come from various universities. 

“By moving to a model in which the commercial sector owns and manages the assets in low Earth orbit, and NASA being one of the many customers, NASA can reduce costs for living and working in low earth orbit.

NASA can also use it to “focus on innovation and exploration of Mars and the Moon through NASA’s Artemis missions,” the agency states.


The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

Since November 2000 it has been permanently manned by rotating astronaut and cosmonaut crews. 

Crews have mostly been from Russia and America, though the Japanese space agency JAXA has also sent astronauts. 

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems

Over 20 years, the International Space Station has been continuously used. Numerous new modules and system upgrades have been made to it. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.

So far 244 individuals from 19 countries have visited the station, and among them eight private citizens who spent up to $50 million for their visit.

The future of the station is still up for debate beyond 2025. It is believed that some elements of the original structure may be deemed obsolete by then.

Russia is a key partner of the station and plans to launch an orbital platform with AxiomSpace, a private company, around that time. It will also send its modules to the station for commercial purposes. 

NASA, ESA (JAXA), JAXA (Canada Space Agency) and CSA are working in tandem to construct a space station on orbit around the Moon. Russia, China and Russia are also working on a similar project that could include a base for operations on Earth.