NASA wants to privatize space as quickly as possible, in-line with the missions of the likes of SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. They already use these private companies to launch some satellites and send instruments and supplies to the International Space Station. Now, they want to add a module to the ISS where tourists can visit and experience the majesty of space.
They have reached an important milestone to achieve this goal – picking Axiom Space to supply its first commercial destination module for the International Space Station. NASA plans to connect this module to the ISS’s Note 2 forward port and serve as an example of what they can do when partnering with private companies.
According to NASA officials it will usher in a “low-Earth orbit economy” on the ISS, themselves being a customer.
A competition was launched to find the right private partner to supply this important step, which Axiom Space won, and will offer private access to the station facilities and a port of their own. The contract will reportedly include a five-year “base performance” review and a two-year option. It isn’t known how this “performance” will be measured, but presumably they will have some deliverables at intermittent periods.
Axiom Space hasn’t announced when the first module will be ready, but they are aiming to offer trips to the ISS as soon as 2021. NASA’s vision is to move to a more privatized ISS after 2024.
Some are opposed to this type of expansion, as the ISS has always been a research-oriented endeavour. But proving that space can be a profitable endeavour not only for governments is an important step for our interplanetary ambitions.
With SpaceX planning to send tourists around the moon by 2021 and NASA planning to send people to the ISS, space tourism is alive and well.