NASA recently held a competition 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. That may sound like a mouthful, but the resulting winning design from MIT can be explained much more simply as a luxury space hotel.
The project, dubbed the Managed, Reconfigurable, In-space Nodal Assembly, or MARINA, was designed as a commercially owned and operated space station that features a luxury hotel as the primary anchor tenant and NASA as a temporary co-anchor tenant for 10 years, according to MIT.
MARINA hopes to make orbital space holidays a reality with a luxury hotel that will provide eight earth-facing rooms. A bar, restaurant, and gym are also included in the design.
The hotel would be the main source of revenue, but other revenue-generating features would include rental of serviced berths on external International Docking Adapter ports for customer-owned modules and rental of interior modularized rack space to smaller companies that provide contracted services to station occupants. This could include satellite repair, in-space fabrication, food production, and funded research.
Some of the project’s key engineering innovations include extensions to the International Docking System Standard (IDSS) interface, modular architecture, and a distribution of subsystem functions throughout the MARINA’s node modules.
“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,” MARINA Team Lead Matthew Moraguez tells MIT News.
Modules can also be used to create an interplanetary Mars transit vehicle that can enter Mars’ orbit, refuel from locally produced methane fuel, and return to Earth.