NASA Releases Solicitation for LEO Commercialization Studies

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins removes samples from the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). Blood, saliva and urine samples will be stored in MELFI until they can be transported back to Earth for analysis. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has released a research announcement requesting proposals to study the future of human spaceflight commercialization in low-Earth orbit.

The research announcement solicits industry concepts detailing business plans and viability for habitable platforms, whether using the International Space Station or a separate free-flying structure, that would enable a space economy in low-Earth orbit in which NASA is one of many customers.

Concepts should identify ways to stimulate demand for commercial low-Earth orbit services with a goal to sustain the space marketplace. Additionally, the study seeks industry input about the role of government and evolution of the space station in the process of transitioning U.S. human spaceflight activities to a non-governmental commercial human spaceflight enterprise in low-Earth orbit.

As described in its International Space Station Transition Report, NASA will continue to have a need in low-Earth orbit for regular crewed operations, long-term technology development and demonstrations, space and life sciences research, and opportunities for astrophysics, space, and Earth science research. Access to an orbital platform on which to conduct these activities will be key as NASA and its commercial and international partners prepare for crewed missions to the Moon and beyond.

Proposals are due in 30 days and should outline the technical concept as well as a business case and the evolving role of government. Participation in this solicitation is open to all categories of U.S. organizations, including industry, educational institutions and nonprofit institutions. NASA anticipates awarding multiple four-month, fixed priced contracts, not to exceed $1 million per award. Selection is expected to take place in July with the final reports delivered to NASA in the December timeframe.

NASA’s successful investment with a strong and continually growing U.S. space industry in low-Earth orbit allows the agency to focus on farther horizons as private companies continue successfully providing cargo resupply missions to low-Earth orbit and move purposefully toward once again launching astronauts from American soil. This commercial low-Earth orbit NASA Research Announcement is the next step in enabling a low-Earth orbit space marketplace.

Full details of the solicitation, 80JSC018LEOCOM, including guidelines for proposals, can be found at:


Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at:

  • SamuelRoman13

    China will get all the business with their space station.

  • Michael Halpern

    You really expect advanced tech and drug industry to trust China anywhere near their stuff?

  • windbourne

    sure they will.

  • windbourne

    What is needed is to drop prices for being in space. ISS is way too small and expensive.
    We need to push the private space stations, along with new space lunar base.
    Once we are headed for the moon, and at a quick pace, then other nations will start their own space program and jump on the private space stations to train with.
    Until that point, manned space will remain EXPENSIVE. And in fact, too expensive for companies to want to spend money on.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not sure about the commercial utility of the Moon at least until you start to want to build something like the Gateway Foundation’s station (not LOP-G) as a way to get commercial stations used as training areas maybe, might be easier to take their people on Subs down to neutral buoyancy point if they can’t use NASA’s pool for that

  • Vladislaw

    windbourne wrote: “And in fact, too expensive for companies to want to spend money on.”

    I believe it is more about access than cost. We have never had domestic passenger services to LEO before and we have never had a commercial destination in LEO before.

    When individual corporations are knocking down BILLIONS in profits per year and CEOs getting bonus packages in the multiple millions I predict you will start seeing a REALLY odd assortment of business people flying to space and for no other reason than to cross it off the bucket list or thumb your nose at a rival.

    You may also see more business reps riding with experiments, again .. just because they can and for rates that can be written off as a business expense.

  • Vladislaw
  • Vladislaw

    and I bet you do not even have to send up your own personal to conduct the experiments… their guys will do it ..

  • windbourne

    the commercial unity of the moon is limited. However, it is not about that. The moon will be able running around trying to get the best spots on the poles.
    Look at Antarctica and the Arctic. China is pushing in on all of these. Yet, Antarctica was split between nations 100 years ago. And arctic is split amongst the nations that line it, which china is NOT one. Yet, they and others are trying to lay claim to it, even though per UN law, no go.

    The moon will be the same. Whomever gets to the moon first with a base, will touch off a new space race that will be massive and make the old 60s’s race to the moon look positively minor.

  • ThomasLMatula

    You need to remember that it is only because CEO’s are making so much money that folks like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Paul Allen and Robert Bigelow have money for their space ventures. The money they make isn’t put into a “Money Bin” like Scrooge McDuck, it goes back into the economy funding high risk projects that create new industries.

    How many folks here are able to remember Steve Wozniak’s attempt to lower the cost of space launch in the early 1980’s? But the lack of money available because CEO’s made less and NASA offering launches on the Shuttle at “margin cost” doomed it.

    It is sad how many folks still view capitalism from the perspective of Marx and want to take all the money for the government so NASA will remain in complete control of space exploration.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The industrialization and development of the Moon will be critical to creating a space faring civilization. Rocket launches impact the upper atmosphere and there is probably a limit before the launch rate starts to damage it. We need to have well established settlements on the Moon, Mars and in open space before that occurs or they will never happen. However once established the launch rate will be able to drop to a level that will be environmentally sustainable.

  • Vladislaw

    I need to remember? Where does it say I forgot? What did I say that that would imply money is going into a money bin? Where am I saying I want NASA in complete control?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Unfortunately there are still many who feel that way about space and about the wealthy.

    Better Ways for Jeff Bezos to Spend $131 Billion

    By Harold Pollack
    May 9, 2018

  • Vladislaw

    Bezos has stated he wants to service space based manufacturers. There are none. Corporations have often times funded start ups, created accelerators, venture capital firms etc .. .Bezos can subsidize any number of start ups and make deals for discounted launches.