To use the International Space Station for commercial purposes and allow private players to use its docking services for their flights into outer space NASA has unveiled a multi-pronged strategy early this week. The plan was publicly announced at an event held in New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange which displays the agency’s urge to push commercial use of ISS and setting up facilities that could eventually become an essential part of the station. Bill Gerstenmaier of NASA stated that the agency has to rethink the way it does business as they have no idea about the kind of creative ideas that can come from private industry.
The strategy announced by NASA has five elements. The first one is about commercial use policy of the ISS which will allow private players to carry out manufacturing and marketing activities at the station. There is a detailed pricing schedule for moving cargo to and from the ISS and using its services. Dy. Director of ISS program Robyn Gatens has stated that these activities must fall into any one of three categories which are connection to NASA’s mission, LEO economy stimulation or should be able to use unique microgravity environment.
NASA also has plans to allow commercial firms access to its docking port in Harmony module of the ISS which could soon have a commercial module. The request for proposal to set up this module could be a part of NASA’s NextSTEP plan which will be released on 14th June and the agency plans to select a company to set up the same by end of next year. The next solicitation plan for NextSTEP will be to invite studies on setting up free-flying commercial space stations which had been under discussion way back in 2016 but had been held back. The two final elements of the strategy are to focus on demand and seek proposal for identification of barriers to use of the ISS.
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