NASA and its private partner Axiom have revealed concept designs for a commercial space home aboard the International Space Station for ultra-wealthy customers.
Costing at least $50 million per person, customers will reportedly be able to view a 360-degree unobstructed view of Earth through the largest window ever constructed for space, The Sun reported.
Up until 2020, only astronauts representing state-level agencies have been given access to the ISS. Now, tourists, or “private astronauts,” can make a holiday aboard the station for up to 30 days.
NASA partnered with Axiom, a Houston-based start-up to build the first habitat module.
“Axiom’s work to develop a commercial destination in space is a critical step for NASA to meet its long-term needs for astronaut training, scientific research and technology demonstrations in low-Earth orbit,” said NASA chief Jim Bridenstine.
“We are transforming the way NASA works with industry to benefit the global economy and advance space exploration,” he added. “It is a similar partnership that this year will return the capability of American astronauts to launch to the space station on American rockets from American soil.”
Axiom’s current design is capable of housing eight crew members, who will have their own “nest-like cabin,” or pod. It will also contain manufacturing facilities, a pressurized research lab and a crew-capable airlock.
Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX will provide transport to the ISS, which has cost U.S. taxpayers about $1 billion since it was first launched in the 1990s, the Sun previously reported.
Axiom Space expressed hopes that when the ISS is decommissioned its module will continue to float through space and continue to house astronauts. Axiom Space described the potential development as, “The privately-owned platform that builds on the legacy and foundation of continuous human presence in Low Earth Orbit established by the ISS.”
“The first elements of Axiom will attach to the forward node of the ISS, providing modern accommodations for more astronauts, a first-of-its-kind immersive view of our beautiful Earth, and additional research and manufacturing volume,” the organization added. “When ISS is retired, Axiom Station will complete construction and detach to operate into the future as a free-flying complex for living and working in space – marking humankind’s next stage of LEO settlement.”
SpaceX has already done contract work for NASA, including previously transporting astronauts to the ISS and it is developing the capsules to carry people to the ISS. SpaceX was the first private company to send a spacecraft to the ISS in 2012.
“In the long-term, NASA’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit,” NASA explained.
It added: “A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations, and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.”
The private industry has become more involved with space travel in recent years, especially as NASA have contracted out a lot of its work.
NASA’s head of human exploration, Bill Gerstenmaier, said, “We have no idea what kinds of creativity and literally out-of-the-world ideas can come from private industry.”
The CEO of ISS logistics company Nanoracks, Jeff Manbar, furthered that idea: “It’s a very important step forward. This is the beginning of a new chapter.”