Sierra Nevada develops commercial space station, helps pave way for space tourism

Aerospace and national security contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation is planning to launch a commercial space station with inflatable human habitats, something they say could replace the International Space Station within seven years.

"We think this is frankly a logical step in the evolution of how we use space. Space has always been a form of exploration and taking humans to further places and seeing what is out there," said Neeraj Gupta, director of programs at Sierra Nevada. "Our plan is to put it up before ISS would get decommissioned and make sure that we have the time to make the transition between the two," Gupta said.

The company's proposed orbiting space station doesn’t have a name yet, but it is already in the planning phases. The station would be made up of inflatable modules that would be the size of a three-story building, with a sleeping area, a lab, and space equipment to grow food.

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Gupta says they can fit up to 12 people in each of these habitats. Sierra Nevada plans to provide services to companies that do space-based research, host space tourists, and even movie productions.

"Our plan is to really create a flexible system, and it is really looked at from that perspective, making it flexible so that anybody can do whatever they want to do in space," Gupta said.

And that’s not all. The company already has a contract with NASA for seven missions with its brainchild called Dream Chaser, a spaceplane that will fly cargo to the ISS starting next year.

The plane will make the platform more accessible to countries around the world, being able to land on any runway.

"Our Dream Chaser comes into the atmosphere at a much lower speed and also can land on any runway where a 737 lands, and the crew can walk out, just like off of any plane," Gupta said.