NASA Opens Up International Space Station to Private Astronauts

Space tourist Guy Laliberte (front, far right) aboard the International Space Station.
Guy Laliberte (first row, far right) aboard the International Space Station.

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — As part of NASA’s mission to stimulate a low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy, NASA is enabling up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station beginning as early as 2020.

Private astronaut missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights on a commercial launch vehicle dedicated to the mission to enable private astronauts to conduct approved commercial and marketing activities on the space station (or in a commercial segment attached to the station).

These missions must use U.S. transportation vehicles certified by NASA, such as the ones developed by Boeing and SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). To accommodate this, NASA has expanded the International Space Station Utilization NASA Research Announcement (NRA) to assist U.S. Entities to pursue these missions.

While on the International Space Station, private astronauts now have the ability to conduct approved commercial and marketing activities that meet the requirements of the U.S. Government, and routine operations of the ISS. For more information, please see the ISS Commercial Use Policy and the ISS Commercial Use and Pricing Policy FAQs.

To access the International Space Station Utilization NASA NRA, click here.

For additional information, please see the Private Astronaut Mission FAQs below or contact NASA at HQ-LEO-Economy@mail.nasa.gov

Private Astronaut Missions FAQ

Who is considered an ISS crew member?

Anyone who is on the International Space Station, including NASA astronauts, International Partner astronauts, or private astronauts.

What is a private astronaut mission? 

A private astronaut mission is a privately-funded, dedicated commercial flight to the International Space Station (ISS) whereby approved commercial activities can be conducted by private astronauts on the space station. NASA-sponsored private astronaut missions will use a NASA-certified U.S. Crewed Vehicle (USCV), and will normally be of short duration, less than 30 days. The private astronaut mission sponsor is responsible for selecting the crew and ensuring they meet NASA’s medical standards and certification procedures for International Space Station crew consistent with their role on the mission.

What kinds of activities will private astronauts perform on the space station?

Private astronaut activities performed on the International Space Station may include: allowable commercial and marketing activities, certain promotional capabilities that meet the requirements of the U.S. government, and routine space station operational tasks.

What support will NASA provide to private astronauts?

NASA will perform International Space Station mission integration for all private astronauts to ensure the safety and efficiency of space station operations. Additional support will be provided on a mission-specific basis depending on private astronaut provider needs and requests. This support may include, but is not limited to, cargo launch and return, on-orbit ambient and conditioned stowage, ISS crew time, life support services, crew support consumables (e.g. food, crew provisions, medical kits), exercise equipment, power, camera/video use, and data downlink.

What are the costs of supporting private astronauts, and what will NASA charge the private astronaut mission provider?

The total cost of the NASA services provided will vary by private astronaut mission and be borne by the mission provider. The value of the individual services (e.g. crew time, cargo return, on-orbit stowage) will be determined in conjunction with the specific terms and requirements of the private astronaut mission. Prices will be consistent with the published pricing policy for the services requested.

What kind of agreement will NASA have with a private astronaut mission provider?

Depending upon the goals and requirements proposed particular mission, and the entity providing resources or services, private astronaut mission providers may operate on the International Space Station pursuant to a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based contract, a Space Act Agreement, and/or other arrangement as deemed appropriate under the circumstances.

How many private astronaut missions to the space station can be supported?

NASA anticipates supporting up to two (2) short-duration (typically less than 30 days) private astronaut missions each year, dependent on visiting spacecraft traffic planning constraints and the health and performance of space station systems. NASA may reconsider private astronaut mission opportunities if circumstances change.

What scheduling opportunities will private astronaut missions have for flights to the space station?

NASA will identify candidate private astronaut mission schedule windows. Private astronaut mission scheduling availability will be subject to overall integrated space station requirements, and is also subject to change given spacecraft traffic changes, anomalies, or other unforeseen circumstances.

How can I become a private astronaut?

Regardless of background, whether for professional or personal reasons, anyone interested in becoming a private astronaut must make an arrangement through a U.S. entity that has an agreement with NASA to conduct a private astronaut mission.

What requirements must private astronauts meet?

Private astronauts will have to meet FAA regulatory requirements, which include liability waivers, insurance, and indemnification during launch and reentry activities.