NASA enables commercial crew and private astronaut missions
Press Release From: NASA Headquarters
Posted: Monday September 20 2021
When SpaceX launches its Inspiration4 mission with four crew members into space, it will be the company’s first fully private launch with astronauts in orbit. While not a NASA mission, the flight embodies the agency’s vision and work to foster a strong space economy, with private companies to provide commercial transportation to space for people and goods as well as to create future commercial destinations in space.
“NASA’s efforts and investments, particularly with the Commercial Crew program, have enabled this activity in low earth orbit,” said Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA’s goal is to be one of many customers in the commercial space market, and we are delighted that this crewed mission demonstrates the growing interest in commercial space services. It’s been an amazing year for human spaceflight, and it’s just the beginning! “
The launch, aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, is expected to leave Earth with a window opening at 8:02 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, September 15, from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A from NASA in Florida.
“With the growth of commercial launch capabilities, Kennedy has embarked on a new era of space exploration,” said Janet Petro, director of the Kennedy Center. “With more than 90 private sector partners and nearly 250 partnership agreements, the presence of commercial enterprises at the multi-user spaceport is more important than ever.”
NASA is providing some support to SpaceX on a fully reimbursable and interference-free basis for Inspiration4, including integrated communication support between ground control sites and between ground and space via the Near Space Network as well as a variety of on-site support at Kennedy.
“We have worked with private companies to transfer our knowledge of human spaceflight while enabling them to innovate their designs,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters in Washington. “This partnership has proven to be very powerful as NASA and businesses leverage their unique skills.”
NASA has an agreement with Axiom Space for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station no earlier than January 2022. In addition, NASA is considering proposals for the two next private astronaut missions to the space station in 2022 and 2023. Allowing private astronaut missions to come to the space station is part of a larger plan to help NASA meet its future needs and enable a strong market in Earth orbit low.
Later this year, NASA will also make a selection for the first phase of public-private partnerships aimed at developing commercial destinations in low Earth orbit, of which the agency may be one of many clients. NASA estimates that the agency’s future needs in low Earth orbit will require the accommodation and training of at least two continuous crew members and the ability to conduct approximately 200 surveys per year to support human research, technological demonstrations, biological and physical sciences and the National Lab. NASA’s Low Earth Orbit Commercial Development Program received a strong response from industry to its solicitation, and the agency’s goal is to issue two to four awards for a total value of 300-400 millions of dollars.
Kennedy manages the Commercial Crew program, and the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development program is located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is achieving its goal of safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States through a partnership with private American industry. This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to Low Earth Orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science and more business opportunities. The space station remains the stepping stone to NASA’s next big leap in space exploration, including future astronaut missions to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars.
Find out more about the agency’s missions:
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