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NASA’s ISS Commercialization Plan Draws Interest From Companies In Varying Degrees

A recent announcement by NASA that it will commercialize the International Space Station and allow usage of its facilities to private players has elicited interest from several commercial firms but there is an air of caution around the policies which will be adopted by the agency. The boldest support for NASA’s new strategy came from Los Angeles based Bigelow Aerospace which announced on Twitter that it has made “deposits” on 4 missions to the ISS that will carry around sixteen private travelers.

Bigelow’s founder and president Robert Bigelow elaborated on its social media post in a press statement on June 11 by stating that his firm Bigelow Space Operations had paid “substantial deposits and fees for reservation” to SpaceX last year during September for four missions to the ISS on its Crew Dragon spacecraft. It will now sell each seat for $52 million that will enable it to earn around $208 million from each flight.

The firm did not disclose details of deposits that it has already paid to SpaceX for the seats. The price of these tickets is less than those being paid by NASA for its commercial flight contracts with Space -X and Boeing which is around $58 million for each seat. The flights of Bigelow will take advantage of ISS’s commercial plan to allow twin private missions every year and will use human commercial crew vehicles from 2020.

NASA has not set an upper limit about number of private astronauts and they are likely to stay there for a month. According to Robyn Gatens Dy. Director for ISS program two commercial flights with private astronauts will be allowed and depending on the number of flights there could be space for around dozen astronauts every year. Another private player Tom Shelley of Space Adventures has flown tourists to ISS on the Soyuz said that it is also interested in NASA’s commercial plan.

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