With the International Space Station set to retire by the end of the decade, NASA is looking over proposals from 50 entities to build new private space stations. (Image Credit: NASA)
It’s kind of sad, in a way…
Now that the International Space Station expects to retire by the decade’s end, NASA is looking over proposals that would see new private stations orbiting Earth, saving the agency over $1 billion annually. So far, NASA has already received a dozen proposals from private companies for contracts under the project.
Earlier this year, NASA unveiled the Commercial LEO Destinations Project, which plans to award up to $400 million in contracts to four companies to start developing the private space stations. The ISS, which is over two decades old, costs NASA $4 billion a year to operate, and now the space agency is exploring different avenues to reduce costs. The ISS has been approved to operate through the end of 2024 while expecting to expand its lifespan to the end of 2028. NASA wants to select a winning contract before the end of this year.
NASA didn’t name any companies that submitted proposals. However, over 50 start-up and aerospace corporations expressed interest when the program was announced. Some include SpaceX, Blue Origin, Airbus, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.
While the ISS inches toward retirement, NASA already started implementing other usability options for the station. For example, NASA awarded $140 million to Axiom Space to develop modules that will connect to the ISS. Once the station retires, Axiom plans on detaching the modules, transforming them into a free-flying space station.
NASA also says it won’t need a station quite as large or capable as the ISS in the future. The private station could be very large, but NASA would only pay for needed parts.
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