May 10th, 2023
A space venture called Vast announced its plans to fly a commercial space station as early as two years from now.
Called Haven-1, this single-module outpost could become the first free-flying commercial space station. Its launch, scheduled for no earlier than August 2025 atop a Falcon 9 rocket, would be followed shortly by the first human visitors to the module by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — a mission called Vast-1 — with an additional crewed mission as early as 2026.
“Vast is thrilled to embark on this journey of launching the world’s first commercial space station, Haven-1, and its first crew, Vast-1,” Jed McCaleb, CEO of Vast, said in a company statement on May 10, 2023. “We are grateful to SpaceX for this exciting partnership that represents the first steps in Vast’s long-term vision of launching much larger, artificial gravity space stations in Earth orbit and beyond.”
Billionaire cryptocurrency entrepreneur McCaleb founded Vast, based in Long Beach, California, in 2021 with a vision to develop artificial gravity space stations. The company acquired another small space company called Launcher earlier this year, which had been developing many of the same technologies that would be needed to build a space habitat and maintain it in orbit.
Vast said in its May 10 announcement that this was the first time a commercial space station company has both a contracted launch and a visiting human spaceflight mission.
“A commercial rocket launching a commercial spacecraft with commercial astronauts to a commercial space station is the future of low-Earth orbit, and with Vast we’re taking another step toward making that future a reality,” Tom Ochinero, senior vice president of Commercial Business at SpaceX, said in Vast’s press release. “The SpaceX team couldn’t be more excited to launch Vast’s Haven-1 and support their follow-on human spaceflight missions to the orbiting commercial space station.”
Vast is also being advised by several former SpaceX employees, including Hans Koengsmann, who was SpaceX’s vice president of flight reliability before retiring in 2021.
Haven-1 is a way for Vast to launch hardware sooner and get experience operating a space station while it designs and builds more ambitious destinations, including a planned 330-foot (100-meter) “spinning stick” station in the 2030s and even larger spinning wheel habitats in the 2040s.
The small Haven-1 is planned to be launched inside the standard payload fairing of a Falcon 9 rocket. At about 31,000 pounds (14,000 kilograms), it is expected to be 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) wide and 33 feet (10.1 meters) long and use solar panels to produce some 15 kilowatts of power.
The design calls for a single docking port on one end and a large cupola window on the other end for photography and viewing.
The outpost is expected to be placed into a 310-mile (500-kilometer) circular orbit in the same inclination as the International Space Station, 51.6 degrees with respect to the equator.
Visitors, both space agency and private individuals, would fly to the space station using a Crew Dragon spacecraft to spend up to 30 days aboard the outpost.
The company advertises opportunities for science, research and in-space manufacturing using up to 1 kilowatt of power, as well as 24/7 communications and opportunities for lunar artificial gravity by spinning.
Haven-1 is expected to be filled with up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of pre-load cargo mass and be “fully-independent and equipped with all consumable needs.”
Since there is only one docking port, there doesn’t appear to be any opportunity for resupply. Vast hasn’t said how many crewed visits the single-module outpost could support.
However, the company did say in its press release that Haven-1 would eventually be connected as a module to a larger Vast space station that is under development.
The company’s roadmap shows a 23-foot (7-meter) wide “Starship-class module” being flown as early as 2028 with multiple docking ports. Both Haven-1 and the Starship-class module have a crew capacity of four.
There are other commercial space stations in development, most with support from NASA.
Axiom Space has a contract with NASA to deliver several commercial modules to the International Space Station starting as early as 2025. These would be detached before the ISS is deorbited in 2030 to form an independent outpost.
Moreover, NASA is helping three other companies to develop free-flying space stations: Blue Origin with its Orbital Reef, Nanoracks with its Starlab and Northrop Grumman with its Cygnus-based outpost. The earliest these are expected to fly is 2027.
Video courtesy of Vast
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.