Space startup partners with SpaceX to launch commercial space station
WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - Vast, a startup backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Jed McCaleb, is aiming to launch a school bus-sized space station to orbit by late 2025 with some help from partner SpaceX, Elon Musk's rocket firm.
The cylindrical spacecraft dubbed Haven-1 is the latest platform planned as a replacement to the International Space Station, a two-decade-old orbital research laboratory run primarily by the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency.
The ISS is expected to retire in 2030 and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) wants commercial space stations to replace the ISS.
The agency in 2021 awarded $415 million in development funds to four companies including Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) and billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
Vast wasn't among the awardees, but hopes to receive some NASA funding by 2028, the company's president, Max Haot, told Reuters on Monday.
NASA did not respond to an email seeking comment.
No private company has ever built and deployed a space station. The football field-sized ISS, built over multiple launches and outfitted over its lifetime with various components, cost the participating countries more than $100 billion combined.
Making the construction of a novel space station more ambitious is a current drought in private capital as investors seek less risky bets.
McCaleb, worth $2.4 billion according to Forbes, will back the spacecraft's development and has so far committed $300 million to the company.
The total cost for Haven-1's development "remains to be seen," McCaleb, also Vast's CEO, said in an interview.
"I think it'll take a bit more than that, but we'll see."
CREW OF 4
Vast, founded in 2021, said it plans to launch a crew of four to Haven-1 for a 30-day research mission, shortly after it is deployed. Haven-1 will be launched from SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX will also train the astronauts, who will leave Earth aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule that will dock autonomously to Haven-1.
A wholly commercial project is the future of low-Earth orbit, and Vast and SpaceX were taking a step toward making that a reality, Tom Ochinero, a senior SpaceX executive said in a statement.
Haven-1 is expected to last three years and support three more 30-day missions. Vast is in talks with potential astronauts for the initial mission, Haot said.
Government space agencies would be Vast's primary target customers. Other customers could include philanthropists, private research firms and companies looking to send only payloads - not humans - to the station for robotic research missions.
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