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NASA: Commercial demand exceeds supply at ISS

Capitalism in space: According to NASA officials, the number of private commercial tourist flights being proposed exceeds the availability of docking ports at ISS.

“We are seeing a lot of interest in private astronaut missions, even outside of Axiom,” said Angela Hart, manager of commercial low Earth orbit development at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “At this point, the demand exceeds what we actually believe the opportunities on station will be.”

Opportunities for private astronaut missions are limited by what NASA calls the “traffic model” for the ISS, or the schedule of vehicles arriving and departing the station. Commercial crew missions are limited to two docking ports on the station, one of which is occupied by the vehicle that transported the current long-duration crew on the station. The other is used by commercial crew vehicles during crew handovers, cargo Dragon missions and private astronaut missions.

That restricts the opportunities for private astronaut missions. “About two is about all you fit in there with the rest of the traffic,” Dana Weigel, deputy manager of the ISS program at JSC, said.

The solution should be obvious to all. Private launch companies that wish to use ISS have to launch either their own docking ports, or their own modules with docking ports. This is Axiom’s plan, with its own module scheduled to arrive sometime in ’24. A secondary solution would be for private companies to launch their own space stations, independent of ISS. This would not only sidestep the problem of the bottleneck at ISS, it would free such a company from the charges NASA imposes for using ISS.

Meanwhile, it appears that Axiom is countering those new NASA’s charges for its ISS flights. From the article:

Thanks to an exchange of services between NASA and Axiom, it will actually be NASA paying Axiom for the Ax-1 mission. While Axiom is acquiring services such as crew supplies and on-orbit resources, NASA will be purchasing “cold stowage” space on the Crew Dragon spacecraft to return cargo to Earth at the end of the mission. NASA will pay Axiom $1.69 million for the mission, although Hart noted there will be other charges to Axiom for training and launch services, some of which are still being negotiated.

Suffredini said that, on later missions, Axiom will seek to reduce its reliance on NASA services. “We have a goal that, by after our third flight, we will provide all of those kinds of capabilities” that it is currently purchasing from NASA.

I wonder if that third flight will occur after the launch of Axiom’s module.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

4 comments

  • Call Me Ishmael

    I would say that jacking the price sky-high is also an obvious part of the solution. Supply/demand and all that. NASA makes out like a bandit while “encouraging” potential customers to seek NASA-independent alternatives.

  • Jeff Wright

    The case for the SLSS got better

  • Star Bird

    Could we use a Phantom Zone like Superman? it would be good place t send Obama and the BLM/Antifa

  • Jeff Wright

    This just in from the pest desk…today’s wonderful news item comes as a by-line from phys.org—now we’ve all seen liquid breathing from The Abyss…right? Great for space maybe. Well hang on! Now there is “intestinal liquid ventilation” as- per the phys.org story: “Mammals can breathe through anus in emergencies”
    Ever wonder why angst filled spacemen look so unconfortable on screen?

    I move Tom Cruise to be the next ISS test subject…why, I don’t need a mask sir….I’m not vaping…I’m puckering. Breathe in….hold it….

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