NASA Opens the International Space Station for Commercial Business
NASA is opening the International Space Station (ISS) for commercial business to accelerate U.S. science and technology innovation and accelerate the development of commercial space economy in low-Earth orbit. The ISS has supported human life in space for over 18 years and allowed astronauts to conducting thousands of experiments in areas such as human research, biology, and physical science, as well as advanced technology development. Many of these experiments, conducted on the ISS National Lab , have been research and development with commercial objectives.
The agency is now acknowledging that new opportunities are needed to move beyond research and development, and the station will play an essential role in enabling those opportunities for new commercial markets needed to build a sustainable ecosystem in low-Earth orbit. The shift towards commercialization runs parallel to the agency’s Artemis program goals of landing a woman on the Moon by 2024 – which will also involve significant support from traditional and New Space companies.
In addition to continuing research and testing in low-Earth orbit for its lunar exploration plans, NASA will also begin working with the private sector to test technologies, train astronauts, and strengthen the burgeoning space economy. Providing expanded opportunities aboard ISS to manufacture, market, and promote commercial products and services will help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses. However, NASA’s ultimate goal is forming partnerships that could relate toward favorably lower costs as they begin to purchase services and capabilities from New Space providers.
NASA's plan addresses both the supply-side and demand-side for a new economy, enabling use of government resources for commercial activities, creating the opportunity for private astronaut missions to the space station, enabling commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit, identifying and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets, and quantifying NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.
William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.