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The International Space Station (ISS) has been in service for well over a decade, serving as a key science and technology hub for space agencies and institutions.
Now, the USA has announced that it will be allowing private companies to add their own modules “and other capabilities” to the orbital outpost. The announcement comes after NASA asked the private sector about possibly using an available docking port on the station.
“One of the potential uses of such a port would be preparation for one or more future commercial stations in Low Earth Orbit, ready to take over for the Space Station once its mission ends in the 2020s. The private sector responded enthusiastically, and those responses indicated a strong desire by U.S. companies to attach a commercial module to the ISS that could meet the needs of NASA as well as those of private entrepreneurs,” the space agency wrote.
“As a result of the responses, this fall, NASA will start the process of providing companies with a potential opportunity to add their own modules and other capabilities to the International Space Station.”
Between the ISS and deep space, NASA is leaning heavily on private firms to chart the future of space
It’s not the only new example of a public/private partnership for space either, as NASA looks to the moon, Mars and beyond for another endeavour. The space agency has selected six companies to provide concepts and prototypes for deep space habitats.
The chosen companies include Orbital ATK, Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada and NanoRacks.
These firms will have roughly two years to develop concept studies or prototypes for deep space habitats.
“The contract award amounts are dependent on contract negotiations, and NASA has estimated the combined total of all the awards, covering work in 2016 and 2017, will be approximately $65 million, with additional efforts and funding continuing into 2018. Selected partners are required to contribute at least 30 percent of the cost of the overall proposed effort,” NASA explained.
Featured image: NASA/ISS