Vast to compete with Axiom for NASA’s limited slots for commercial manned missions to ISS

The private space station company Vast, the only one presently building its own space station without a NASA contract, has now announced that it intends to to compete with Axiom for the limited docking slots NASA has made available for commercial manned tourist missions to ISS.

During a panel discussion at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference Feb. 21, Max Haot, chief executive of Vast, said his company would bid on the fifth and sixth private astronaut missions, or PAMs, that NASA offers to companies seeking to flying commercial missions to the ISS. “From our point of view, it will make us a better space station builder, a better partner of NASA, and it will help us practice a lot of the disciplines we are building” for its future commercial stations, he said of Vast’s plan to bid on the missions.

Up until now, Axiom has had no competition for those limited docking opportunities, has flown two missions, with a third planned for this fall. All it needed to do is negotiate the rental fees with NASA for using ISS. Now NASA will need to open up bidding for those slots. Its job is not to play favorites, but to instead make its taxpayer-funded facilities available to as many private companies as possible. Whether it will do so is at present unclear.

Vast’s own space station, a single module to be launched on SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy, dubbed Haven-1, is scheduled for launch next year according to Vast officials. If so (assuming SpaceX’s rocket is operational by then), Vast will be the first private space station in orbit, beating Axiom and the two consortiums building Orbital Reef and Starlab. And it will have done it without taxpayer money.

SpaceX to launch Vast’s first space station module as well as two manned missions to it

Vast Haven-1 station inside Falcon-9 fairing
Vast Haven-1 station inside Falcon-9 fairing

SpaceX and the private space station company Vast today revealed a deal whereby SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch VAST’s first space station module, dubbed Vast Haven-1, followed soon thereafter by two manned missions using SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and lasting up to 30 days.

The announcements claim that first launch will occur by August 2025, which will make it the first privately-owned manned space station to reach orbit, well ahead of the plans by the three space station companies that NASA has issued contracts (by teams led by Northrop Grumman, Sierra Space, and Nanoracks). The only other private station hoping to beat this date, Axiom, won’t be flying independent, but will be attaching its first module to ISS in 2024.

In addition, Vast says that this module will be the incorporated into its proposed larger spinning-wheel station.

Vast is owned and financed by billionaire Jed McCaleb, who doesn’t need NASA seed money for development. In fact, it appears he and SpaceX want to remain as independent of the government as possible, considering the high fees NASA is charging to dock and stay at ISS as well as the stringent research rules it is demanding from private astronauts. This approach also appears to be the same one that Jared Isaacman is taking with his series of private missions on Dragon and Starship.