Assembled over 23 years, by a coalition of 15 countries, and at a cost of $ 100 billion, the International Space Station represents humanity’s most ambitious and enduring foray into space to date. The point is, the ISS probably shouldn’t even be in space anymore – when the project started in 1998, the space station was supposed to have a lifespan of only 15 years.
And yet, ISS still works … and evolves. Someday soon, it might even become a home for businesses and private investment.
Accept reservations now
To promote this goal, about a year ago, the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that it would open the ISS to private astronauts who wish to stay aboard the space station for 30 days at a stretch. NASA explained at the time that it was specifically inviting visitors who wish to engage in “approved business and marketing activities” to help develop “a sustainable low-earth orbit economy,” including “manufacturing, production or development of a commercial application “in space. .
And NASA could get the ball rolling as early as next year.
As the space agency explained in a press release last week, it has just signed an order authorizing the private space company Axiom Space to embark on the very first “private astronaut mission” to the ISS. . Dubbed “Axiom Mission 1” (Ax-1), the company will send four private astronauts – former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, entrepreneur Larry Connor and investors Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe (from Canada and ‘Israel, respectively) – to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket. There, the four businessmen-astronauts will live and work in the US segment of the space station for approximately eight days.
BYOB to ISS – “bring your own bed”
Now, because living space is at a premium aboard the ISS, “there are no astronaut crew quarters for us,” admits mission commander Ax-1 Lopez- Alegria. New residents of the ISS will therefore likely have to lie down wherever they can find a place to float their sleeping bags. For this privilege, each entrepreneur-astronaut will pay $ 55 million.
That’s an interesting number, by the way. When American businessman Dennis Tito took a trip to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in 2001 and became the first “private astronaut” of all time, the cost of his ticket was than $ 20 million. Seven such private astronaut missions later, the cost of a ticket has not decreased at all – but has almost tripled!
It’s a trend someone should probably try to reverse if space tourism is ever to evolve into a growing industry that its supporters say it will be.
But at least Axiom’s price will be all-inclusive. As the company advises, “all necessary charges are part of the price of Axiom’s ticket,” from the price SpaceX charges for shuttle service to and from the space station, to $ 35,000 per night for accommodation. The NASA. Obviously, though, it’s the cost of rocket flights that makes up most of the cost – so this whole project seems to be more of a revenue generator for SpaceX than it does for NASA or Axiom.
What happens after
And that’s … OK. As Axiom explains, Axiom is a precursor mission to the company’s ultimate goal of developing a fully private space station.
Although Axiom was established only five years ago, according to reports from S&P Global Market Intelligence, he plans to start building a space real estate empire before the age of 10. Beginning with Ax-1 in 2022, Axiom intends to start a regular program of brokering “private and domestic astronaut flights to the ISS at a rate of up to two per year.” “With each mission completed, Axiom will gain a little more experience with space station operations, and with each ticket sold, add a little more capital to its business. And by 2024, the company hopes to have its operations built. own space station modules These, Axiom proposes to attach to the ISS to provide additional living and working space for its private astronaut passengers – including, hopefully, beds.
And at some point in the future, when the ISS is finally taken out of active use, Axiom intends to detach these modules “to form the world’s first space station, privately developed and internationally available – the central node of a near-future LEO research, manufacturing and trade network. ”
But it all starts with Ax-1. And it all starts in January 2022.