NASA just announced an ambitious program to commercialize the International Space Station. One of the most note-worthy parts of the program is that soon, private astronauts willing to pay can have month-long visits to the ISS.
Commercializing The International Space Station
NASA will soon be opening the ISS for business, as the agency announced its five-part plan that will accelerate U.S. innovation and ingenuity in low-Earth orbit. So far, more than 50 companies have already conducted commercial research and development aboard the ISS, and the new plans will expand these activities.
Simply put, the new directive will widen the field of current commercial activity aboard the ISS, which, for now is limited to research and development. With it, both NASA and private astronauts can conduct commercial activities aboard the ISS, including commercial production and manufacturing of products that are intended to be sold on Earth.
This would allow private industries to use U.S. government resources for marketing and commercial activities. Revenue from this directive would free up more resources for NASA’s Artemis program with the goal of sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the moon by 2024.
“NASA’s plan addresses both the supply-side and demand-side for a new economy, enabling use of government resources for commercial activities, creating the opportunity for private astronaut missions to the space station, enabling commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit, identifying and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets, and quantifying NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit,” the agency said in a press release.
Perhaps most interesting for many in the new directive is that it would also allow private astronauts to visit the ISS for up to 30 days so that they can perform the approved commercial and marketing activities. These missions will be privately funded, and if approved, the ISS can accommodate two short-duration private astronauts per year.
While the figures can still change, the initial cost for a private astronaut’s stay aboard the ISS would be about $35,000 per night. For each day a private astronaut stays aboard the ISS, NASA will be charging $11,250 for life support as well as bathroom privileges, $22,500 for crew supplies, and $50 per gigabyte of data downlink.
A month aboard the ISS would cost about $1 million per private astronaut, while a seat aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon would be about $58 million. There is no set date for when this can start, but missions can begin as early as 2020.
The agency did not say whether the new directive will accommodate “space tourists” just like the eight people that Russia launched from 2001 to 2009.