From an exclusive research facility, the International Space Station (ISS) as we know it is taking its chances in the commercial sector, opening its doors for companies interested in using microgravity to foster growth both in business and in research.
Too good to be true? National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is making it possible, and it is now calling for ideas from interested companies all over the world.
In fact, it has provided a Request for Information (RFI), a form seeking proposals from companies attracted to using the decade-old space station and the low-Earth orbit environment in developing a strong commercial market as well as assisting the agency with its future space explorations.
"This RFI will help identify how to open this one-of-a-kind orbital laboratory to the private sector in better and more practical ways-ultimately, helping to pave the way for private microgravity research facilities of the future," said associate administrator William Gerstenmaier of the NASA Human Exploration and Operations in Washington in a press release.
On January 9, NASA announced that it would be extending the country's support to the ISS to at least 2024, which could offer more reasons for private market industries to access its unique microgravity environment -- a great boost to the expanding space tourism.
Meanwhile, the ISS, a space laboratory that also serves as home to over 200 astronauts and space tourists from 15 different nations since 2000, will welcome the second batch of Expedition 40 crew aboard Soyuz 39 on May 28.
"Now is an exciting time for space research and developing exploration capabilities," Gerstenmaier said. "After 10 years of continuous habitation in low-Earth orbit, we know microgravity provides data unattainable on Earth. We are already seeing benefits in pharmaceuticals, medical robotics and materials sciences."
The proposal, which should not be more than 20 pages, must be submitted on or before June 30.
It should provide feasible ways on creating private system in low-Earth orbit and how to get there that would exceed NASA's requirements; solutions to issues related to access, program, and business that would come up with the project's objectives, and what the company can do to help in NASA's exploration missions.
More details about the RFI can be accessed here.