Space stations have offered platforms for science that can only be performed in microgravity, such as studying human physiology and psychology in space. International Space Station operations have been extended through 2030, and China’s almost completed Tiangong space station is planned to remain operational for at least a decade.
In line with the current intense activity in commercial human spaceflight, there are a number of planned commercial space stations in Earth orbit that aim to serve as platforms for science, tourism, and research for manufacturing in zero gravity. These include:
- Starlab by Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin,
- Orbital Reef by Blue Origin,
- Axiom space station by Axiom Space, and
- a space station by Northrop Grumman.
Most of these stations plan on going operational between 2025 to 2030.
When will a free flying commercial space station become operational?
This question will resolve as the date when a commercial space station is assembled in space (over 100km above sea level) and a living human crewmember is onboard the station. A space station will be considered "commercial" if over 50% of its building and operational costs are paid by private, non-government parties, and if the station is operated primarily by a private organization.
For this question, a "space station" will be defined as a spacecraft which provides a habitat for a living human crewmember and whose intended mission is to orbit a planet or natural satellite for 1 year or more.
This question pertains to a free flying station, i.e. the station must not be a commercial module attached to another space station (as planned e.g. for the first steps of the Axiom space station) but must be autonomous.