In a somewhat surprising move, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced last week it will rent out portions of the International Space Station (ISS) to private corporations. The plan also includes provisions to allow private astronauts to travel to the space station. According to a NASA press release, the new policy hopes to stimulate partnerships between the organization and commercial entities.
“NASA will continue research and testing in low-Earth orbit to inform its lunar exploration plans, while also working with the private sector to test technologies, train astronauts and strengthen the burgeoning space economy,” the agency wrote in a press release. “Providing expanded opportunities at the International Space Station to manufacture, market and promote commercial products and services will help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses.”
In addition to private astronauts, corporations can now send products for use on the ISS as well. Previously this was impossible, as NASA had a strict policy on what it would allow onto the space station. However, the new move opens up significant revenue-generating possibilities as space becomes more privatized.
“It’s no longer just for science and research,” said Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst for Teal Group, while speaking the Los Angeles Times. “You’re allowing ventures to come in and use that space for profit, for making money. That’s not a small thing.”