Orbital Reef space station wins a key role in Hollywood movie even before it’s built

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Orbital Reef space station
An artist’s conception shows the Orbital Reef space station. (Orbital Reef via Amazon)

The commercial space station that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has a hand in building, known as Orbital Reef. will be getting some Hollywood-level product placement years before it’s due to go into operation.

Blue Origin and the other partners in the Orbital Reef project today announced a cross-promotional deal with Centerboro Productions to portray the space outpost in an upcoming sci-fi movie titled “Helios.” The announcement was timed to coincide with this week’s International Astronautical Congress in Paris.

The movie is set in 2030, which is around the time Orbital Reef could become a reality — assuming that the funding from NASA and from commercial partners continues to flow.

“The film will tell the story of a spaceship, the Helios, and its crew during their urgent mission to the International Space Station,” a plot synopsis reads. “When a massive solar flare hits the station, it is up to astronomer and former NASA astronaut Jess Denver and Air Force Colonel Sam Adler to team up and save humanity.”

Orbital Reef is to be featured as a next-generation space station that serves as a critical resource for the Helios crew.

“We teamed up with Blue Origin to give moviegoers a thrilling but realistic depiction of the future of living and working in space and a coordinated response to a space weather emergency,” Patricia A. Beninati, who’s one of the film’s producers and writers as well as the president of Centerboro Productions, said in a news release.

“Helios” is a sci-fi movie about a crisis that’s caused by a massive solar flare. (Centerboro Productions)

Orbital Reef is one of several proposed commercial space station projects that have been receiving support from NASA in anticipation of transitioning crewed operations in low Earth orbit from the International Space Station to commercial outposts. The International Space Station is due to be deorbited in the 2030-2031 time frame.

Kent, Wash.-based Blue Origin’s main partner in the Orbital Reef project is Colorado-based Sierra Space. Amazon, Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University are also part of the team. Orbital Reef recently passed its system requirements review and system definition review with NASA.

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Other projects include an outpost being designed by Northrop Grumman and its industry partners; Axiom Station, planned by Axiom Space; and Starlab, an effort led by Voyager Space Holdings and Lockheed Martin. Just this week, CNBC reported that the Hilton hotel chain would bring its hospitality expertise to the Starlab team.

There’s no guarantee that all of these commercial stations will end up getting built. And Hollywood film projects are also notorious for taking longer than expected to get off the ground.

Based on the history of the @HeliosMovie Twitter account and the movie’s Facebook page, the project previously known as @FlareMovie (or “Solar Storm”) has been in the works for five years. Hollywood veteran Michael Polish has been listed as the film’s director — but today’s announcement made no mention of director or cast.

We should know more about Orbital Reef’s prospects — and about how “Helios” is shaping up — in 2023. That’s when the film project is due to begin principal photography, and when the space station team is expected to conduct its preliminary design review. Orbital Reef is currently slated to make its debut in 2027.

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