MIT graduate students were recently honored at NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage Design Competition Forum. The students took part in a year long challenge to “design a commercially enabled habitable module for use in low Earth orbit that would be extensible for future use as a Mars transit vehicle.”
The project is known as Managed, Reconfigurable, In-space Nodal Assembly, or MARINA. The project would serve as a primary anchor tenant and NASA as a temporary co-anchor tenant for 10 years. NASA estimated the cost of operating MARINA at $360 million per year, which is significantly cheaper than maintaining the International Space Station and surprisingly feasible. In contract, the International Space Station costs approximately 3 billion per year to maintain.
“MARINA’s flagship anchor tenant, a luxury Earth-facing eight-room space hotel complete with bar, restaurant, and gym, will make orbital space holidays a reality,”
The primary reason for ideation of a space hotel is to generate revenue and help with recurring maintenance costs. The station would also undergo other revenue generating activities such as the rental of serviced berths on external International Docking Adapter ports for customer-owned modules, and the rental of interior modularized rack space to smaller companies that provide contracted services to station occupants. All of those activities have sub applications such as satellite repair, in-space fabrication, food production, and funded research.
The design of the station is unique in allowing for multiple inflatable modules to come together: “Modularized service racks connect any point on MARINA to any other point via the extended IDSS interface. This enables companies of all sizes to provide products and services in space to other companies, based on terms determined by the open market,” explains MARINA team lead Matthew Moraguez, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “Together these decisions provide scalability, reliability, and efficient technology development benefits to MARINA and NASA.”
But of course, it also makes the dream of a space vacation a reality. “MARINA’s flagship anchor tenant, a luxury Earth-facing eight-room space hotel complete with bar, restaurant, and gym, will make orbital space holidays a reality,” says Valentina Sumini, a postdoc at MIT who contributed to the architectural concept for the station.