In order to be independent of Earth supplies, the habitat will need access to space-based resources to compensate for air leakage, to produce fuel, and as a source of other raw materials. Asteroid mining companies will be able to use the habitat to extract and refine metals and other materials that may be used for other purposes.
Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries and are two of the companies we would like to do business with.
Small Spacecraft Assembly and Launch
The habitat will be equipped with facilities to perform electronic an mechanical assembly and manufacture of custom structures. This will enable the assembly and launch of lightweight small spacecraft without the need for the robust structural elements needed to survive launch.
Habitat Alpha could be a viable replacement for the International Space Station (ISS). Microgravity is available at the center of the main module or experiments may be placed outside the habitat.
The ability to assemble repair or modify equipment in a pressurized lab environment will make the habitat an excellent place to perform technology proofs of concept and demonstrations. The subsystems required to make the habitat fully functional will also be an opportunity to partner with organizations wanting to develop those technologies.
The ability to provide space for about 40 researchers or space tourists will be an important source of revenue for the habitat.
Propellant and Refueling Operations
The habitat's factory capability will enable the production of propellant from asteroid materials and store relatively large quantities of gases, such as hydrogen and oxygen in its external tanks. In addition to using this propellant for its own purposes, the habitat will make it available for on-orbit refueling of other spacecraft.
The ability to extract materials from asteroids or other off-Earth sources will be critical to constructing and maintaining space habitats. Habitat Alpha will have basic manufacturing capabilities in several areas.
Launch and Shuttle Services
Low cost launch and shuttle services will be important in keeping the total costs of a stay at the Habitat to a level that will attract experimenters, tech demos and tourists. We are hoping that some of the space plane technologies are mature when we begin operations.
We will also rely on a heavy launch provider, such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 Heavy launcher to place the pressure vessel in orbit in one piece. In general launch costs will be a major factor in the cost of assembling the habitat in orbit.