ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 12 (UPI) — The planned launch of a private commercial airlock to the International Space Station in November will accelerate NASA’s plan to turn the station into a hub of private industry, space agency officials said.
The commercialization plan also includes the launch of a private habitat and laboratory by 2024 and a project NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter in May in which actor Tom Cruise will film a movie in space.
The 20-year-old space station may even have a private citizen on board again for the first time in years in late 2021, according to Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight. It’s part of a plan to wean the space station off NASA’s public funding of $3 billion to $4 billion per year.
“We expanded the scope and range of activities that can be done on ISS,” McAlister said in an interview earlier this year. “We carved out resources — power, oxygen, data — and we know we can support a paying customer, probably twice a year for up to a month.”
Detailed plans for those stints at the space station are partly proprietary, he said.
Whether private citizens return or not, NASA has increased corporate missions to the space station in recent years.
One example was Estee Lauder, which sent 10 bottles of skin cream to the space station Oct. 1 as part of a $128,000 contract with NASA, according to the company and NASA.
The agency charges $17,500 per hour for the astronauts’ time, according to its fee schedule. A representative for Estee Lauder confirmed the project last week, but declined to elaborate.
Anheuser-Busch has sent barley seeds to the ISS several times, including an experiment to see how the seeds could be sprouted, known as malting, in microgravity.