The International Space Station (ISS) is preparing for commercial space trips after NASA asked private enterprises for new ways to boost the lab. NASA has a new program to use the ISS capabilities for economic development by implementing commercial strategies. On Friday, two astronauts installed a parking spot for the future space taxis.
The International Space Station is a pure research lab that has been orbiting Earth since 2005. The Station will expand its horizons to commercial ones after its research mission ends in 2024. NASA has asked private companies to share how they would use the ISS for commercial purposes as part of its new program “Advancing Economic Development in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) via Commercial Use of Limited Availability, Unique International Space Station Capabilities.”
The program is searching for ideas to determine which ones fit the parameters of the ISS research capabilities and if they are valuable enough to attract people to use them.
In a NASA’s blog post, the Agency explained that the enterprises participating in the brainstorm demonstrated how their proposals would work in the ISS from a business perspective.
They also had to prove that their products or services would be able to compete in a commercial market in LEO even after the ISS complete its research mission.
Some companies have asked NASA if the ISS could be used as a trial for other projects more “out of the box,” including future space stations commercially owned and operated. Many business ideas are growing, and they could mark the future of space commerce.
The goal of this brainstorm is to see if private markets interests regarding the ISS have limited availability. The U.S. efforts to create a marketplace in space are beginning, and they could turn space into another place to go to work or to go to school. The possibilities are infinite.
Frank Culbertson Jr., president of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group and former NASA astronaut, says the ISS is emblematic. It is the prove of how government-funded technologies are becoming part of the private sector activities.
Using the ISS for commercial purposes could also bring more funds for deep space expeditions and reduce the waiting time of the Mars mission that plans to leave Earth in 2030.
Preparing the International Space Station for business
On Friday, two astronauts left the ISS to install a parking spot in the shuttle’s docking port that will be used by Space Exploration Technologies and Boeing to park at the Station. The upcoming of this commercial space taxis mean that the U.S. does not need to rely on Russia to take personnel to the ISS anymore.
Station commander Jeff Williams and flight engineer Kate Rubins made a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk toward the berthing slip that was used in the past by NASA’s now-retired space shuttles.
Williams and Rubins were out in space to attach an adapter to the ISS. Boeing’s first flight to the Station is expected to take place 2018. Elon Musk’s SpaceX will begin test flights of its new passenger Dragon capsule to the ISS in 2017, Reuters reports.