In 2021, billionaire Jeff Bezos finished a successful 11-minute tour of space and, upon landing, declared all heavy and polluting industries be moved into space.
Expanding on that idea, space infrastructure startup ThinkOrbital is working on an orbital platform it hopes will eventually house military, government agencies and even commercial businesses with aspirations of manufacturing in orbit.
After NASA did not select ThinkOrbital to develop commercial space station concepts, the startup directed its focus to a product that co-founder, president and chief strategy officer Lee Rosen calls “more viable.”
ThinkOrbital’s platform is a spherical habitat called ThinkPlatform. According to the startup, it provides a large volume, protected from orbital debris and thermal effects, to accommodate in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) activities, habitation for astronaut missions and tourism.
While there is an expectation that products such as fiber optics, pharmaceutical products and computer chips will be manufactured in space, Rosen said in an interview with SpaceNews that large-scale manufacturing does not exist in space because there isn’t a place to do it.
Rosen added that the startup would also attempt to design the platform so it could be used for recycling and debris removal. The plan is to send smaller satellites to collect debris and return it to a central location where it would be processed and either converted to fuel or deorbited.
ThinkOrbital would use a robotic arm and electron beam welding technologies to assemble the platform in space.
ThinkOrbital already won $260,000 in research contracts from the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Prime program and is hoping for another selection in the program’s next phase, which could be worth up to $1.5 million.