Russian Firm Plans Commercial Space Station

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Buoyed by plans for commercial space taxis, a Russian company plans to build and launch a privately owned outpost in orbit for tourists, scientists and other paying visitors.

RSC Energia, which designed and built the Russian modules of the International Space Station, is partnering with Russian commercial space startup Orbital Technologies to manufacture the new hub, currently known as Commercial Space Station.

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Unlike the International Space Station, the CSS will be assembled on the ground and put into orbit by a single Soyuz rocket, according to Orbital Technologies CEO Sergey Kostenko.

Designs for the seven-person outpost are complete and construction is expected to begin in 2012 or 2013. Launch would take place about two years later. Prices to stay on the station have not yet been determined, Kostenko said in an interview.

“I’m very optimistic about space tourism in the future,” he said.

Orbital Technologies is working with the U.S.-based Space Adventures, which arranged eight privately paid visits to the International Space Station via Russian Soyuz vehicles and which recently announced an agreement to market Boeing’s planned commercial crew capsules.

Kostenko said his firm is looking to partner with Boeing, SpaceX, Russia, China and any other country or company with the capability of flying people to and from the Commercial Space Station.

“All space transportation systems are welcome,” he said.

The outpost, which will be left unoccupied between visits, will have some science facilities for experiments. Kostenko said he expects about half the visitors simply will want to look out the windows.

Each seven-member crew will include one commander who is a professional astronaut and six non-professional fliers, Kostenko said.

The project is similar to plans by Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace for inflatable habitats for tourism, science and entertainment.

“Bigelow is a competitor. That’s all I’m going to say about that,” Kostenko said.

Orbital Technologies plans to put its station in the same orbit as the International Space Station and make it available as a emergency evacuation shelter.

Image: The Commercial Space Station includes sleeping berths for four, leaving three visitors to bunk down in their space taxi or a nook in the station. It is being designed so that vehicles from any country or company can berth. Top: Commercial Space Station. Bottom: Commercial Space Station in section (Orbital Technologies, Ltd.)