Capitalism in space: NASA on January 31st released its updated plan for transitioning all government manned orbital operations to commercial private space stations in the next eight years in preparation for the deorbiting of ISS in early 2031.
You can read the report here [pdf]. The key paragraph however is this:
NASA has … signed agreements with three U.S. companies (Blue Origin of Kent, Washington; Nanoracks LLC of Houston, Texas; and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles, Virginia) to develop commercial destinations in space that go directly to orbit, i.e., free-flyers. The awards, along with the Axiom concept [where the private station starts as part of ISS and then later separates], are the first part of a two-phase approach to ensure a seamless transition of activity from the ISS to commercial destinations. During this first phase, private industry, in coordination with NASA, will formulate and design [commercial space stations] capabilities suitable for potential Government and private sector needs. The first phase is expected to continue through 2025.
For the second phase of NASA’s approach to a transition toward [commercial space stations], the Agency intends to certify for NASA crew member use [commercial space stations] from these and potential other entrants, and ultimately, purchase services from destination providers for crew to use when available.
It is NASA’s goal to be one of many customers of commercial LEO destination services, purchasing only the goods and services the Agency needs. [Commercial space stations], along with commercial crew and cargo transportation, will provide the backbone of the human LEO ecosystem after the ISS retires. [emphasis mine]
The report predicts that, by using private stations instead of building its own, the agency will save up to two billion dollars per year, money it can than use of planetary missions. This of course is assuming NASA cancels SLS. If not, I predict that overpriced cumbersome rocket will quickly absorb all this money saved.
The highlighted sentence indicates that NASA continues to accept entirely the recommendations I made in my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in Space [a free pdf download]. In fact, that sentence is almost an exact quote from one of most important recommendations.
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