NASA Seeks Proposals for Two Private Missions to ISS
NASA is inviting space companies to submit proposals to fly crews on the third and fourth private astronaut missions to the International Space Station. The third mission is expected to lift off in late 2023 while the other is set for launch in the second half of 2024. Allowing private entities to visit the ISS is part of the agency’s low-Earth commercialization strategy. According to Angela Hart, manager of NASA’s Commercial LEO Development program at the Johnson Space Center, the private missions will help the industry gain critical experience in preparation for flights to future commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, SpaceNews reported.
NASA has awarded the first and second PAM, dubbed Ax-1 and Ax-2, to Axiom Space. Ax-1 lifted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in April. The launch vehicle carried the Dragon Endeavor capsule, which brought astronauts to the ISS where they stayed for two weeks in support of Axiom Space’s plan to offer human spaceflight services and build a fully commercial space station.
The Ax-2, meanwhile, is scheduled for deployment in the second quarter of 2023 using a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Axiom Space also responded to a previous request for proposal for the third PAM but the agency rejected it after giving the company poor ratings.
According to the latest RFP, the PAMs should have a former NASA astronaut as a team commander. The agency said in a recent regulatory filing that having such an astronaut will provide experienced guidance for other crew members during pre-flight preparation through mission execution.
NASA will accept RFP responses until Oct. 27.
Tags: Axiom Space International Space Station NASA private astronaut missions space SpaceNews SpaceX