NASA has put out a call that could see the commercial use of the ISS expanded to private outfits, who may wish to take advantage of its unique capabilities. One example is to use the low-Earth orbit (LEO) facility's underused attachment ports.
Companies have been soliciting ideas about this since the start of July and they have until the end of the month to get all of their ideas in. The agency put a call out to private firms that may which to use the facilities for commercial purposes.
This move is an opportunity for commercial space technology service companies. It is not every day that NASA welcomes commercial space groups to use the ISS, strategically located in space to accommodate other companies. Currently, there are about 300 active experiments being conducted on board and NASA thinks the ISS can handle more activities involving commercial use.
A request for information (RFI) released this month, wanted to know how the ISS could be used to boost other activities for commercial use and in turn, create a self-sustaining marketplace in the LEO. Because of that, NASA has now started looking for potential contracts and agreement structures to explore and enable commercial use of the space station.
"The space station was designed with what we thought was a full set of utilization capabilities. However, we are finding that industry is more innovative than we'd imagined and has ideas to use station in ways we never envisioned for research or commercial activities," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate said in a press release.
"We're asking industry to help us understand how best to offer these unique capabilities, such as unused attachment ports or non-standard attachment sites, to commercial users. I'm looking forward to seeing how the private sector responds," Gerstenmaier added.
However the question has been asked, as to why NASA could and would want to rent out its facilities to businesses? Could space agency actually be running out of money?