WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) – Vast, a startup backed by crypto billionaire Jed McCaleb, aims to launch a school bus-sized space station into orbit by late 2025 with some help from SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company.
The cylindrical spacecraft dubbed Haven-1 is the latest platform planned as a replacement for the International Space Station, a two-decade-old orbital research laboratory run primarily by the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency.
The International Space Station is expected to be decommissioned in 2030, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) wants commercial space stations to replace the International Space Station.
In 2021, the agency awarded $415 million in development money to four companies including Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) and billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
The company’s president, Max Haut, told Reuters on Monday that Fast was not among the winners, but that he hopes to secure funding from NASA by 2028.
NASA did not respond to an email seeking comment.
No private company has built and deployed a space station. The International Space Station (ISS) the size of a football field, which has been built on several launches and has been equipped throughout its lifetime with various components, has cost the participating countries more than $100 billion combined.
Making building a new space station more ambitious is the current drought in private capital as investors seek less risky bets.
McCaleb, who is worth $2.4 billion according to Forbes, will support the development of the spacecraft and has so far committed $300 million to the company.
The total cost of developing Haven-1 “has yet to be seen,” Vast CEO McCaleb said in an interview.
“I think it will take a little more than that, but we’ll see.”
Vast, which was founded in 2021, said it plans to send a crew of four to Haven-1 on a 30-day research mission, shortly after its publication. Haven-1 will be launched from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX will also train the astronauts, who will leave Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule that will autonomously join Haven-1.
Tom Oshinero, a senior SpaceX executive, said in a statement that the fully commercial project is the future of low Earth orbit, and FAST and SpaceX were taking a step toward making that happen.
Haven-1 is expected to last three years and support three other missions for 30 days. Haute said Fast is in talks with potential astronauts for the initial mission.
Government space agencies will be Vast’s primary target customers. Other customers could include philanthropists, private research firms, and companies looking to send only payloads — not humans — to the station for robotic research tasks.
(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington). Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Chizu Nomiyama
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