Nanoracks wants to expand from being host attempts on board the International Space Station to operating its own miniature stations built from used rockets, with a first launch scheduled for next year.
The company has arranged two launches of eight cubic water and one space habitat construction experiment on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the end of 2020, according to a statement from Nanorack's released Monday (November 18). The launch, in collaboration with Maxar, will be the company's first demonstration mission for its Outpost project, and will cut materials that mimic a second-hand rocket in space. That is the first step in turning such equipment into a space station that Nanoracks can then commercialize, according to the company.
"Structural metal cutting has never been done in space, and SpaceX is honored to help deliver a demonstration of this orbit capability," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, in the statement . "It promises to see more companies like Nanoracks investing in new technology to promote the exploration of the moon and eventually Mars."
Related: The International Space Station: A Photo Tour
Last month, Nanorack's CEO Jeffrey Manber announced that the company was planning to fly an outpost demonstration mission by the end of 2020. With the Falcon 9 launch booked, the Outpost demonstration will join eight other Nanoracks -run satellites in flight.
The demonstration is designed to cut the metal without producing any room debris . Such orbital debris is a real threat to existing and future satellites, which can be damaged or destroyed by collisions. Eventually, Nanoracks wants to turn second-hand rockets into commercial space stations that can be headquarters for tourism, advertising, research and other opportunities.
Next year's test project is based on NASA funding. The agency wants to encourage private companies to develop a circulation economy. In June, NASA announced new opportunities to bring commercial operations to the International Space Station, including hosting private astronauts for up to one month at a time. At the time, NASA also said it was looking for ways to encourage companies to build their own independent space stations.
A project aimed at that goal is already in space; Bigelow Expandable Activity Module arrived at the space station in 201