On Wednesday September 14th, NASA announced that it plans to support two new private astronaut missions in low Earth orbit. Recently, the US space agency asked private industry to submit proposals for commercial astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS). This call for proposals foresees two new missions that seek to expand private research in the orbital complex.
In early September, it was announced that NASA and Axiom Space, a private American company that develops space infrastructure and is financed in Houston, signed a new agreement to carry out the second private astronaut mission to the ISS. This is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2023 and, in addition, new missions are planned for early 2024.
We are witnessing a significant increase in access to space and expansion of the commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.Angela Hart, manager NASA’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Program
In an agreement with Axiom Space, announced on September 1st, NASA became the pioneer of the mission devised to coordinate the on-orbit activities of a group of private astronauts, through the Ax-2 mission.
It builds on the success of Ax-1, the first mission to demonstrate the space agency’s ability to work in partnership with private companies to plan and execute complex, fully private, manned spaceflight missions. The Ax-1 mission brought three paying customers and a retired NASA flyer to the ISS earlier this year.
The NASA team announced that it has sent out a request to private industry for proposals for commercial astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Their plan is to cooperate in the execution of two new private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit. These missions will be carried out between the end of 2023 and 2024, in order to expand private research work in the orbital complex. According to Space.com, the agency hopes to run operations on the orbiting complex until 2030, pending a sign-off from the other ISS partners. The next step may be a set of commercial space stations.
The missions provide an opportunity to gain experience needed to select, train, and manage crews on future commercial low-Earth orbit destinationsAngela Hart, manager NASA’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Program
The recently announced call for proposals highlights that each private mission to the ISS will last 14 days and although it has indicated that they will be carried out in the next two years, it has not yet determined an exact date for this. It is estimated that these dates will be revealed after finalizing the spacecraft docking schedule along with the activities to be carried out in orbit.
The missions must be brokered by a US entity and use an American transportation spacecraft. SpaceX is the only provider authorized by NASA for astronaut flight services to orbit.