ISS Successor? Vast to Launch First Commercial Space Station in 2025

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Launcher Space parent company Vast said it plans to launch the world’s first commercial space station named Haven-1. Scheduled to blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to low-Earth orbit (LEO) no earlier than August 2025, Haven-1 will initially function as an independent crewed space station before integrating with a larger Vast space station in development.

Designed to accommodate up to four people, Haven-1 will serve as a fully-functional living space for space agencies, individuals, and companies interested in research or manufacturing in orbit. In addition, it offers opportunities for potential customers seeking space-based activities.

Illustration of Haven-1 space station inside the Falcon 9 fairing before launch. Image courtesy of Vast.

Following Haven-1’s launch, the Falcon 9 rocket will carry Vast’s inaugural human spaceflight mission, Vast-1, to the commercial space station. Then, with a four-person crew, the Dragon spacecraft will dock with Haven-1 for up to 30 days while orbiting Earth.

Thanks to the launch partnership with SpaceX, Vast will see both the Haven-1 space station and Vast-1 human spaceflight missions blast off aboard the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. The crew selection process for Vast-1 is currently underway. Once chosen, the astronauts will receive training from SpaceX on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft operations, emergency preparedness, spacecraft ingress, egress procedures, and comprehensive mission simulations, including docking and undocking for Earth return. Notably, the crew will be wearing the distinctive white and black SpaceX suits.

Vast team members inside the SpaceX Dragon trainer. Image courtesy of Vast.

No science fiction beyond this point

Commenting on the recent announcement, Vast CEO Jed McCaleb expressed excitement about launching the world’s first commercial space station, Haven-1, and its inaugural crew, Vast-1. McCaleb acknowledged SpaceX’s partnership and emphasized Vast’s long-term vision of launching larger artificial gravity space stations in Earth orbit and beyond.

Illustration of Haven-1 space station overview. Image courtesy of Vast.

Vast’s goal of achieving artificial gravity in space has resonated strongly. Thanks to extensive research from space agencies and academia, we know weightlessness is bad for astronauts working on long-term flights. Capable of causing bones to lose about 1 percent of their mass every month, this weightlessness could result in a 30-year-old traveler to Mars returning with the bones of a 60-year-old person.

Various concepts, such as rotating spacecraft or centripetal force, have been proposed to generate artificial gravity. The aim is to simulate Earth’s gravitational effects through centrifugal acceleration. According to NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center, the only known way to create artificial gravity is to supply a force on an astronaut that produces the same acceleration as on the surface of Earth, for example, by spinning the spacecraft fast enough to create enough centrifugal acceleration.

McCaleb, who has invested his estimated fortune of $2.5 billion into Vast, holds a substantial stake in the company and has a roadmap for its future. The plan involves utilizing centrifugal force from a large spinning structure to provide a gravitational-like environment, mitigating the negative physiological effects of prolonged exposure to zero gravity.

Vast’s long-term objective is to develop a 100-meter-long spinning artificial gravity space station launched using SpaceX’s Starship transportation system. To support this, Vast plans to conduct the world’s first spinning artificial gravity experiment on the commercial space station Haven-1.

While other specific details on implementing artificial gravity have not been disclosed, the upcoming launch has generated excitement within the space technology industry. SpaceX Senior Vice President of Commercial Business, Tom Ochinero, sees a future where commercial rockets, spacecraft, and astronauts collaborate to operate commercial space stations in LEO.

Illustration of SpaceX Dragon approaching to dock. Image courtesy of Vast.

What about 3D printing?

With the acquisition of Launcher last February, it’s easy to imagine that Vast intends to leverage the brand’s experience in space technology and additive manufacturing (AM). In addition, Launcher’s relationship with industry giants like Velo3D and AMCM offers the potential to become a powerful asset to Vast’s high-stakes missions to develop its affordable, artificial-gravity space stations.

The acquisition of Launcher has provided Vast with a skilled team to accelerate advanced manufacturing, development capabilities, and spacecraft technologies. Additionally, Vast plans to utilize Launcher’s Orbiter space tug and hosted payload platform to reach orbit this year to test and develop space station components and subsystems.

Vast has expressed its commitment to continue supporting Launcher’s Orbiter space tug, hosted payload products, and the E-2 staged combustion rocket engine. Rather than developing its own launch vehicle, Vast will focus on liquid rocket engine products. The Orbiter will continue its support for existing and future payload customers.

Max Haot, who recently transitioned from Launcher CEO to Vast president, said he is enthusiastic about the opportunity to join Vast and contribute to developing the world’s first commercial space station.

While it is still early to determine whether Vast’s endeavor will replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to remain operational until at least 2024, there have been ongoing discussions and proposals for the future of human spaceflight beyond the ISS. These include plans for potential successor stations and private space stations. Like Haven-1, these plans are in various stages of development and have the potential to thrive in orbit, incorporating resources from diverse sectors beyond government agencies.

Haven-1 hatch. Image courtesy of Vast.

Vast is selling up to four crewed seats on the inaugural mission to Haven-1, targeting domestic and international space agencies, as well as private individuals engaged in scientific and philanthropic projects. To reserve a spot on Vast-1 and be part of the first crew to visit the world’s first commercial space station, click here.

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