By Ben Warwick

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado continues to lead the way in the next-generation space race. It was announced Thursday that Sierra Space, based in Broomfield, has been selected by NASA to help build the next space station.

The International Space Station was launched in 1998, and is quickly reaching the end of its life. For years, NASA has been planning its replacement and soliciting ideas from private companies to lower the price tag. Two companies – Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Colorado’s Sierra Space will partner to build Orbital Reef.

(credit: Orbital Reef)

Orbital Reef is the future of continual manned presence in space. NASA announced the new space station that will be built in low-Earth orbit. Billed as a “mixed use business park in space,” Orbital Reef will have space for research, industrial, and commercial space for international partners while also making room for habitats for astronauts and accommodation for equipment and logistics operations.

(credit: Orbital Reef)

NASA, Sierra Space, and Blue Origin plan to have the first phase in place in Earth’s orbit by the end of this decade. More attachments will complete the project sometime in the mid-2030s.

“Blue Origin and Sierra Space are proud to be awarded the NASA Commercial Destination Free Flyer program,” Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space, said in a news release. “Blue Origin and Sierra Space are committed to the realization of our vision of enabling humanity to build civilizations in space while enhancing life here on Earth. The commercialization of low Earth orbit is an important first step in this journey. We look forward to working with NASA on this important program that will advance humanity’s settlement of space.”

Orbital Reef will be designed to accommodate Sierra’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

(credit: CBS)

The University of Colorado will also partner with other universities around the United States to focus on academic needs, such as research and STEM programs.

Ben Warwick