Space Commerce

NASA Announces Intent to Procure a Future Short Duration Spaceflight Opportunity

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
November 27, 2019
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NASA Announces Intent to Procure a Future Short Duration Spaceflight Opportunity

NASA has released a synopsis with the intent to purchase a seat on a private astronaut mission for a short duration single flight opportunity to the International Space Station to meet both human research and low-Earth orbit commercialization needs.

NASA’s goal is to achieve a robust economy in low-Earth orbit from which NASA can purchase services as one of many customers. The purchase of a private astronaut mission seat will directly support NASA’s low-Earth orbit commercialization goals by helping to lay the foundation for America to maintain a constant human presence in low-Earth orbit to be enabled by a commercial market. NASA is committed to working with our partners to return human spaceflight capability to American soil and also will keep its commitment to have an American crew member on the space station until these new capabilities are routinely available.

As the only place for conducting research about how living in microgravity affects living organisms, especially humans, as well as demonstrating and testing technologies essential to enable humans to explore the Moon and Mars, the International Space Station serves as an important stepping stone for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon.

Current human spaceflight mission durations are typically six months. In preparation for NASA’s plans for human missions to the Moon and Mars, NASA has identified a requirement to use missions of varying length on which it collects standard data to establish profiles of human physiological, behavioral, and psychological variables of importance for ensuring astronaut health and performance during future long-duration deep space missions. Private astronaut mission opportunities NASA identified as part of its low-Earth orbit economy plan are up to 30 days, within the timeframe necessary to perform research and collect critical data to build a comprehensive human spaceflight physiological profile.

A robust commercial space economy ensures that national interests for research and development in low-Earth orbit are fulfilled while allowing NASA to focus government resources on deep-space exploration. A continuous U.S. human presence in low-Earth orbit will support the utilization of space by U.S. citizens, companies, and academia, as well as international partners, while maintaining a permanent American foothold on the nearest part of the space frontier. Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit.

NASA’s purchase of a seat on a future private astronaut mission of no more than four total crew members helps both foster the low-Earth orbit economy as well as provides NASA an additional way to meet its needs for research aboard the International Space Station. Meeting those goals further enables the agency to focus its resources on the goals of the Artemis program, including to land the first woman and next man on the Moon. This is the first phase in creating a sustainable lunar presence to prepare for future missions to Mars.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.