Recently we talked a bit about NASA and the $400 million contest it was holding to get private companies to design space stations. NASA needs private companies to design new space stations as the ISS is aging, and NASA doesn’t want to foot the bill for the replacement. NASA wants private industry to take over operations in low-Earth orbit when the ISS comes to an end.
Private companies are now rushing to design space stations to grab their part of the hundreds of millions of dollars NASA is offering. The agreement would have NASA helping to support the companies as they develop space stations and carry out the preliminary design review. The preliminary design review is a critical technical assessment of what it would take to get the space station flying by the end of fiscal year 2025.
Several companies have already announced that they will design space stations as requested by NASA. Those companies include Sierra Nevada Corporation and Axiom Space. Axiom is working to build its commercial space station and will have a module attached to the ISS before its space station can launch.
NASA changed how it gets astronauts into space by privatizing the launch of satellites and resupply missions for the space station. Currently, several companies are providing commercial launch services to NASA, including SpaceX. NASA believes that partnering with private companies has saved it vast sums of money. Partnering with private companies and becoming a user of orbiting space stations rather than the owner will save it even more money in the future.
Saving money is critical to keeping NASA operating as budgetary issues are always a concern. Currently, there is no real ETA on when any of these private space stations may be ready to go into orbit, but we are likely multiple years away from that.