NASA is partnering with seven U.S. companies, including Long Beach’s Vast, for the development of technology for future commercial and government needs beyond Earth’s atmosphere, the agency has announced.
The space agency will assist the companies in their various efforts not with funding, but by providing technical expertise, assessments, technology and data through the Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2 initiative.
“It is great to see companies invest their own capital toward innovative commercial space capabilities, and we’ve seen how these types of partnerships benefit both the private sector and NASA,” Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, said in a statement.
Through its Space Act agreement, Vast is collaborating with the space agency on the technology and operations required for its microgravity and artificial gravity stations. The company has plans to launch the world’s first commercial space station, Haven-1, as early as 2025.
Haven-1 is the first step toward Vast realizing its ultimate goal of developing a 100-meter-long, artificial-gravity space station capable of hosting more than 40 people at a time.
“(We have) requested input on a wide variety of topics, ranging from radiation cancer risk mitigation to micrometeoroid and orbital debris simulation to trace contaminant control,” Vast President Max Haot said in an email to the Business Journal. “We will also have access to their subject matter experts for more free-ranging, long-term technical exchanges, as well as use of their testing facilities such as their laboratories and large-scale thermal vacuum chambers.”
The collaboration will not speed up Vast’s launch timeline, which is ambitious, Haot noted. But it provides a “significant risk reduction” and will make it easier to hit those deadlines, he said.
Other NASA collaborations include:
- Integrated commercial space transportation development with Blue Origin.
- Autonomous and robotic capabilities for commercial science research and manufacturing in low Earth Orbit with Northrop Grumman.
- Commercial low Earth orbit ecosystem development, including next-gen space transportation, in-space infrastructure and facilities for human presence with Sierra Space.
- Dragon improvements and Starship development with SpaceX.
- In-space servicing technology called the Autonomous Maneuvering Unit (AMU) and the Astronaut Assist-AMU for commercial services and mobility in low Earth orbit with Special Aerospace Services.
- Self-assembling, single-launch, large-scale orbital platforms for in-space research, manufacturing and astronaut missions as well as welding, cutting, inspection and additive manufacturing technology for large-scale in-space fabrication with ThinkOrbital.
NASA selected the proposals by evaluating their relevance to the agency’s goals and NASA’s own ability to provide resources, as well as the feasibility of each project, the agency stated.
The agency’s support of a low Earth orbit economy is meant to boost education and job growth in science and engineering, according to a statement, as well as spur economic growth with the creation of new space markets.
“The companies can leverage NASA’s vast knowledge and experience, and the agency can be a customer for the capabilities included in the agreements in the future,” McAlister said. “Ultimately, these agreements will foster more competition for services and more providers for innovative space capabilities.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Vast.