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Want to Build a Space Station? NASA Offering Up to $400 Million For Development of Low-Earth Orbit Habitats

  • NASA set to debut Commercial LEO Destinations project for the development of private space stations
  • Goal is to provide a self-sustaining low-Earth orbit economy that can cater to private customers as well as the government
  • Up to $400 million to be awarded to as many as four companies

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Low-Earth orbit will soon be open for business. NASA is seeking industry feedback as it prepares to debut its Commercial LEO Destinations project for the development of private space stations.

A draft announcement for proposals will be released in April to solicit feedback, followed by a final announcement in May. NASA is offering up to $400 million for the initiative, to be allocated to as many as four companies, which will be awarded in the final quarter of this year. Agreements will be executed through the 2025 fiscal year.

The goal of the project is to “stimulate U.S. private industry development of free-flying orbital destination capabilities and create a market environment in which those services are available to both government and private-sector customers.” NASA says that by partnering with the private sector it can save money and create a self-sustaining low-Earth orbit economy.

In a two-phase strategy, NASA will first pursue agreements for early concept development and then purchase destination services. The agency previously said it would seek proposals that don’t rely heavily on continued NASA purchase of services, but rather develop a new industrial capacity allowing them to serve other customers.

NASA anticipates that the privately developed stations will need to provide accommodations and training for two crew members continuously and be able to perform about 200 investigations a year to support human research, technology demonstrations, biological and physical science, and the National Lab.

The project is driven in part by the impending need to replace the International Space Station, which has been in orbit for more than two decades. NASA previously awarded Axiom Space a contract to add commercial destination modules to the ISS, and also struck successful partnerships with three private companies for crew and cargo deliveries to the station.

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