NASA has a plan to reinvent the International Space Station’s mission – CNET

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The International Space Station is turning into a commercial operations.

Thomas Pesquet

The International Space Station’s days as primarily a scientific effort are numbered. NASA is offering new details on how it will transition the ISS into a commercial operation over this decade, including the agency’s plan to develop supply and demand for a “low-Earth orbit commercial economy.”

The space agency has already entered into one contract to attach commercial modules to a space station docking port and has signed agreements for the design of three other free-flying commercial space stations.

“US industry is developing these commercial destinations to begin operations in the late 2020s for both government and private-sector customers, concurrent with space station operations,” NASA said in the International Space Station Transition Report published Tuesday.

The report follows the Biden administration’s commitment on Dec. 31 to extend ISS operations through 2030. The extension from closing in 2024 came after NASA already began making plans to transition the ISS to commercial space stations and other private platforms in low-Earth orbit.   

The report said NASA remains focused on inspiring humankind through STEM student participation, microgravity research and development, orbital activities, partnering with minority institutions, and exploring “ways to engage a diverse group of students, educators and the general public through inspirational opportunities.”

Read more: 2022 space calendar: Massive NASA missions, SpaceX launches and a worldwide race to the moon

NASA is also hosting hundreds of experiments at the ISS National Laboratory, including from commercial users, government agencies and academia.

As the ISS enters its third decade of operations, NASA is all about pushing deep space exploration.

“We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable and cost-effective destinations in space,” Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA headquarters, said in a statement.

NASA will then purchase goods and services it needs from such “commercial destination providers” in space. This will save the agency money so it can focus on its Artemis missions to the moon and Mars.

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