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Start-up of the Week: Vast eyes formation of world’s first-ever private space station by 2025

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Vast's headquarters is located in a two-building campus in California's Long Beach, occupying 115,000 square feet of offices, manufacturing, and integration facilities

The possibility of a first-ever private space station will be a reality in a period of little over two years from 2023.

United States-based start-up Vast Space has launched its programme to loft its Haven-1 outpost aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by August 2025.

In today’s episode of International Finance’s start-up journey, we will venture into the world of Vast Space, a venture formed two years ago and a ‘very hungry’ one, in the words of its CEO Jed McCaleb.

Stepping Into The World Of Vast

“Expected to be the world’s first commercial crewed space station, designed, manufactured, and operated by Vast,” the venture stated on its website.

Vast’s headquarters is located in a two-building campus in California’s Long Beach, occupying 115,000 square feet of offices, manufacturing, and integration facilities.

Haven-1, the world’s first commercial space station, is being designed and will be manufactured, integrated, and operated from this California campus. Vast has another 25,000 square feet facility with state-of-the-art manufacturing in Hawthorne.

“This facility will be consolidated in the Long Beach Vast campus by the end of 2023,” the start-up commented.

HAVEN-1 will have four crews, along with facilities such as compatible docking with the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, the option of extending the on-orbit duration of commercial Dragon spacecraft human spaceflight missions for up to 30 days for four astronauts, Science, research, and in-space manufacturing opportunities, up to 1000W of power, 24/7 communication facilities, up to 150kg of pre-loaded cargo mass in the space station, opportunities for lunar artificial gravity by spinning, privacy for the astronauts, large window dome on board the spacecraft for viewing and photography, always-on internet via onboard WiFi and resting rooms.

The Project Roadmap

“At Vast, our mission is to contribute to a future where billions of people are living and thriving in space, a future in which the human population and our resources expand far beyond our current imagination,” VAST commented, while talking about its vision and mission for the ambitious HAVEN-1 project.

“We believe that living on moons and planets such as Mars will be key enablers of this future. We also believe that artificial gravity habitats will play a critical and complementary role in humanity’s long-term, sustained expansion into the solar system and beyond,” it added further.

“Prolonged exposure to zero gravity results in debilitating side effects such as muscle atrophy, bone loss, and even brain damage. Today’s astronauts must limit their visits to space to reduce the toll on their bodies. This is a limiting factor in our ability to expand across the solar system,” the start-up commented, while talking about the project’s challenges.

“By building artificial gravity habitats, we aim to create a more optimal environment for long-term stays in space. Artificial gravity is not science fiction. The resulting centrifugal force of a large spinning structure in space provides a pull that mimics the gravitational environment human bodies are accustomed to, thus reducing the detrimental physiological effects that extended stays in zero gravity cause,” it said further.

Vast, founded in 2021, is now aiming to be a pioneer in the field of space habitation technologies, which will help humanity to expand its presence across the solar system. The dream is to build the world’s first low-cost, artificial gravity crewed station. The venture, as of 2023, is being funded by its founder and CEO Jed McCaleb.

Vast has revenue-generating contracts from its space tug, Orbiter, along with United States’ government partnerships and payload customers. It has also started offering seats on the Vast-1 SpaceX Dragon mission for the Haven-1 project.

From 2023-25, Vast will launch six Orbiter space tugs and host payload platform missions on SpaceX rideshare missions, crucial stepping stones for the HAVEN-1 mission. Then the HAVEN-1 mission will take place by August 2025, followed by the Vast-1, the first human spaceflight mission to Haven-1 on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The vehicle and its four-person crew will dock with Haven-1 for up to 30 days while orbiting Earth.

Then in 2028, Vast will be sending its first Starship-class space station module, which the venture describes as “a vehicle with a diameter of seven meters, in order to provide unparalleled potential for research, tourism, and more.”

In 2030, The company will be having its next missions, first of them are going to be the formation of 100-meter-long spinning stick space stations that provide various gravitational environments including Earth, Mars, Moon, and asteroid gravities.

The last piece of the puzzle will be the ‘Proliferated Station Fleets’, set for launch dates throughout the 2040s. These artificial gravity and zero gravity space stations will be optimized for human physiology and psychology, as per Vast’s website.

All You Need To Know About The Vast-1 Mission

As per the latest reports, the Jed McCaleb-led venture is selling up to four seats on Vast-1. SpaceX will provide astronaut training, spacesuits and other such services for the mission, as it did for Ax-1, a private flight to the International Space Station (ISS). This mission was operated by Houston-based venture Axiom Space in April 2022.

Haven-1 will eventually be incorporated as a module into a larger space station. In February 2023, Vast acquired another space start-up called the Launcher. As part of the acquisition, the combined staff force of Vast and Launcher will start working from Vast’s Long Beach headquarter by 2023 end.

Vast will continue with the Launcher’s Orbiter space tug and hosted payload products as well as its staged combustion rocket engine E-2, and will focus on the start-up’s liquid rocket engine products instead of developing its own launch vehicle.

Conclusion

NASA wants to have at least one commercial space station running in low Earth orbit before the ISS retires at the 2030 end. It has opened up a new R&D and investment avenue for private space ventures.

Axiom Space is too planning to launch several modules to the ISS in the next few years. You have private space ventures like Blue Origin, Nanoracks and Northrop Grumman all working on similar concepts.

Vast’s timeline for the launch of the first-ever private space station is an ambitious and aggressive one, and well ahead of its competitors. The Jed McCaleb-led venture is at the cusp of history. If everything goes as per the plan by 2025, Vast will become the first commercial rocket company to construct its own space station.

Image Credits: Vast Space

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