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NASA Wants to Open Space to More People, Supports Private Missions

The station pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon

NASA is seeking proposals for two new private astronaut missions to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s efforts to open space to more people than ever before. With these opportunities, U.S. commercial companies will continue to play an essential role in establishing a sustained presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) through the agency’s Commercial LEO Development Program.

The targeted flight opportunities will occur between late 2023 and 2024. 

A private astronaut mission involves U.S. commercial spacecraft transporting private astronauts to the space station, where they conduct activities aboard the orbiting laboratory or a commercial structure attached to it. NASA is enabling up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year.

“We are truly in an exciting era, witnessing a significant increase in access to space and expansion of the commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” said Angela Hart, manager of the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We recognize the importance of NASA’s continued support, and are dedicated to working with industry to identify areas where our expertise and unique capabilities support expansion, as with private astronaut missions. These provide a unique opportunity for industry to gain critical experience needed to select, train, and manage crews on future commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, as well as work with new science partners, future commercial partners and grow this non-traditional market.”

The new targeted flight opportunities will be the third and fourth private astronaut missions to the International Space Station coordinated by NASA. The first mission was accomplished by Axiom Space in April 2022. Axiom Space was also selected by NASA for the second private astronaut mission, scheduled for the second quarter of 2023.

Each of the new missions may be up to 14 days while docked to the space station. Specific dates are dependent on spacecraft traffic to the space station and in-orbit activity planning and constraints. Private astronaut missions must be brokered by a U.S. entity and use U.S. transportation spacecraft that meet NASA’s International Space Station visiting vehicle requirements, policies, and procedures. Refer to Focus Area 4A of NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNJ13ZBG001N for additional details.

Enabling private astronaut missions to the International Space Station is part of the agency’s goal to develop a robust low-Earth orbit economy where NASA is one of many customers, and the private sector leads the way. This strategy will provide services the government needs at a lower cost, enabling the agency to focus on its Artemis missions to the Moon ahead of human missions to Mars, while continuing to use low-Earth orbit as a training and proving ground for deep space exploration.

Proposals are due at 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 27, 2022. NASA will host a pre-proposal conference to address questions related to the solicitation at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. To confirm attendance, please email Kelly Rubio at no later than 4 p.m. EDT Sept. 15, 2022.

For solicitation information, please go here.

For media assistance, please contact:

Stephanie Schierholz

Leah Cheshier