The big picture: Commercializing the Space Station will help NASA offset some of the cost of operating the facility. Additional revenue could be used to help fund NASA’s return to the Moon, dubbed Artemis. But will it really generate that much extra money?
NASA on Friday announced plans to open the International Space Station for commercial business including tourism.
NASA said private astronaut missions to the ISS of up to 30 days will be permitted. Should the market support it, the agency could accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year. Such missions will use a US-based spacecraft developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The first mission could take place as early as 2020.
A private sector trip to the ISS from a company like Boeing or SpaceX would likely cost north of $50 million, with NASA receiving $35,000 for each night an astronaut spends aboard the Space Station. A more detailed breakdown of costs is shown in the chart above.
In the long-term, NASA said its goal is to “become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit.”
Carissa Christensen, CEO of Bryce Space and Technology, a consulting firm for the space industry, said it is a smart policy move by NASA in that it engages a broader range of industry and increases visibility for space and the Space Station. “That said, the revenues generated from tourism and filming are likely to yield more good public relations than financial returns.”