NASA opens the International Space Station for commercial business

Nasa to open International Space Station to tourists

NASA anticipates that opening up the station to private travel will lessen financial strain on the agency, which has faced recent cuts.

In fact, it was California-based engineer (and multimillionaire) Dennis Tito who, by way of the Russian Federal Space Agency, became the first ISS tourist during his personally funded, eight-day orbit on the ISS in 2001. It's not quite "anything goes", though-approved activities have to have a link to NASA's mission, stimulate the development of a LEO economy, or actually require a zero-G environment. It also will allow corporations to use resources (including NASA astronauts' time and expertise) on the ISS for commercial purposes.

The two companies hired by Nasa are Elon Musk's SpaceX, which will use its Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building a spacecraft called the Starliner.

NASA's new five-point commercialisation plan allows up to two short privately funded astronaut missions per year using USA spacecraft, according to ISS deputy director Robyn Gatens. The agency will even consider letting NASA astronauts participate in commercial marketing, at least in support roles "behind the camera".

"But it won't come with any Hilton or Marriott points", DeWit deadpanned. As Robyn Gatens, deputy director of the ISS, said during today's press conference, that could mean up to 12 private astronauts a year, depending on how many people get launched on each flight.

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NASA is hoping that, by opening up the station to commercial travel, it can expand the market for space exploration while it aims to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Their plan to raise money includes allowing private business activities to take place on the ISS, including in-space manufacturing, marketing activities, healthcare research and more.

But the United States has paid for and controls most of the modules that make up the orbiter. "What we want to do is leverage the station and try to enable others to turn a business model. while we have the infrastructure of the space station". "It will cost around $ 35,000 per night, per astronaut", remarked Jeff DeWit.

While the plan seemingly puts space within reach of private citizens and businesses, the current pricing scheme is eye-wateringly expensive.

But another key part of NASA's new plan is to open up a port on the ISS for a commercial module, laboratory, or other facility.

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