Sep 23, 2020 - Science

Private companies are aiming for the International Space Station

The International Space Station as seen above Earth
The International Space Station. Photo: NASA

The International Space Station is open for business and private companies are making expensive plans to capitalize on it.

Why it matters: This commercialization effort by NASA is part of the agency's broader goals to welcome a broad swath of private enterprises to space to boost an economy in low-Earth orbit that will make NASA a buyer among many users instead of a sole provider.

  • NASA expects that shift will allow the agency to focus on farther afield missions like getting people to the Moon and Mars.

The state of play: Last week, Estée Lauder announced NASA will fly bottles of one of the company's beauty products to the space station, where astronauts will take photos and videos of it.

  • "The raw imagery will be provided back to Estée Lauder, and they intend to use them in social media posts," NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told me via email.
  • The bottles will fly up to the station aboard an upcoming Northrop Grumman cargo launch currently scheduled for the end of the month.
  • An unscripted show is expected to award its winner a 10-day trip to the space station in 2023, according to Deadline.

Yes, but: It isn't cheap for companies to make use of the space station and the astronauts who keep it functioning.

  • Companies will be charged about $17,500 for an hour of NASA astronaut time and $11,250 per day for a private astronaut's life support and use of a toilet.
  • Crew supplies — including air and food — cost $22,500 per private astronaut per day.
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