NASA is looking to open up the International Space Station (ISS) for greater commercial use. The agency is seeking submissions from companies that would be interested in using the ISS to develop commercial opportunities, while helping towards exploration goals. NASA recently announced US commitment to the ISS until 2024.
The increased minimum time-period of support pledged by NASA has meant that more time for potential commercial use of the ISS has become available. In addition to company submissions for commercialization, NASA is also seeking submissions for research proposals and more general suggestions and ideas about how it can provide greater access to, and use of, the ISS for such activities.
The call-out for submissions was made via a Request for Information (RFI). NASA has advised that submissions should outline ideas that could further efforts to create a private system in low-Earth orbit, develop means of transport for commercial crew, improve access to the ISS for commercial and research purposes, help to transition the ISS to a more commercially-driven purpose and identify resources that could be purchased to benefit commercial uses of the ISS.
"After 10 years of continuous habitation in low-Earth orbit, we know microgravity provides data unattainable on Earth," says William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA. "We are already seeing benefits in pharmaceuticals, medical robotics and materials sciences. This RFI will help identify how to open this one-of-a-kind orbital laboratory to the private sector in better and more practical ways, ultimately helping to pave the way for private microgravity research facilities of the future."
Over 200 people have visited the ISS, which has been continuously crewed since November 2000. NASA says that the space station remains the springboard for the "next great leap in human spaceflight exploration, including missions to an asteroid and Mars."
Submissions must be no more than 20 pages long and the closing date is June 30 2014.