NASA wants two more manned commercial missions to the ISS

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NASA wants two more manned commercial missions to the ISS

On Wednesday, September 14, the NASA announced that it had asked private companies to submit proposals for manned commercial missions to the ISS. Through this call, the American space agency expressed its wish to see two missions carried out by private astronauts be launched towards the station between the end of 2023 and 2024.

This is not something new for NASA. The agency already has an agreement with the company Axiom Space regarding trade missions. Earlier this year, three customers paid to be able to join the ISS as part of the Ax-1 mission. They were accompanied by a former NASA astronaut.

International Space Station

For Axiom Space’s first private mission, the astronauts had a fairly heavy workload in orbit. However, NASA and Axiom have indicated that they now have a sustainable strategy to secure a second mission.

An opportunity for businesses

According to Angela Hart, commercial low-orbit program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston, private missions offer a unique opportunity in the commercial spaceflight sector to gain experience. This experience is needed when selecting, training, and managing crews for future commercial low orbit destinations. There is also the preparation of collaborations with new scientific partners and future commercial partners.

For NASA in particular, private missions will serve to prepare the period after the end of the ISS. The space agency wants to continue working on the laboratory in orbit until 2030. After that, the next stage of “life in space” will depend on private space stations.

What we know about the missions requested by NASA

According to NASA, the two missions listed in the call will each last 14 days. However, the specific dates will be announced after the ISS docking schedule and the list of in-orbit activities have been finalized.

The US space agency said in the call that the missions will have to be brokered by a US entity and use a US transport spacecraft. This means that the astronauts will have to travel aboard the capsule SpaceX’s Crew Dragon which is today the only American device to have the authorization to transport passengers to the ISS.

As for the crews, NASA requires that they include a former astronaut from the agency as their commander. The Ax-1 mission was led by retired astronaut Michael López-Alegría, and it is known that the Ax-2 mission will be led by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson.

Let’s wait to see which companies will come forward to respond to this call from NASA.


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