Jun 7, 2019 - Science

Here's how much it will cost you for a trip to the Space Station

Data: NASA; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: NASA; Table: Axios Visuals

Private companies and tourists will have to pay a pretty penny if they hope to fly people to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's new plan to further open the station up to private industry.

Why it matters: NASA wants to stimulate the growth of the private space industry using the ISS, but the agency won't give away its resources for free. NASA is expecting private spaceflight companies and private astronauts using the ISS to reimburse them for their services in orbit.

By the numbers: NASA expects that private astronauts — whether they be space tourists with millions of dollars to spare or company-sponsored astronauts — will spend no more than 30 days at a time on the ISS. The first private astronauts are expected to fly to the station in 2020.

The big picture: Eventually, the agency hopes that it will become a customer to private companies that have established themselves in low-Earth orbit instead of having to operate its own space station there, once the ISS mission ends.

But, but, but: It's not as if NASA will make a ton of money from this pricing model. These numbers were chosen as basic estimates for how much it would take to reimburse the space agency for the cost of keeping someone alive and working on the station.

  • "They're paying for what they need on station," NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier told Axios.
  • Gerstenmaier said that if private companies come back to NASA and say that they can't find anyone to pay for a mission at that price point, the agency would consider changing their prices.

Background: NASA has been working toward opening up the station to private enterprise for a long time. The agency is already planning to buy rides to space for their astronauts aboard privately built spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX in the coming years, and those same vehicles are expected to transport private astronauts to orbit as well.

  • NASA hopes that by becoming a customer for private companies in orbit instead of a supplier of services, it will free the agency up to put more resources into exploring distant parts of the solar system like the Moon and Mars.

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