NASA’s Vision for Low-Earth Orbit Economy

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A robust and competitive low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy is vital to continued progress in space. The United States is committed to encouraging and facilitating the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector that supports U.S. needs, is globally competitive, and advances U.S. leadership in the next generation of new markets and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

NASA has developed a long-term vision to achieve this goal where, one day, NASA will become one of many customers in low-Earth orbit. This plan builds on, uses the capabilities of, and applies the lessons learned from over a decade of work and experience with commercial companies.

This plan, entitled NASA’s Plan for Commercial LEO Development, addresses supply, demand, and lays out steps to date that have been taken. It also includes detailed steps that will be taken in the near-term, mid-term, and long-term (see graphic below). NASA applied recommendations provided by 12 companies from recent market studies while developing this plan. The companies assessed the potential growth of a low-Earth orbit economy and how to best stimulate private demand for commercial human spaceflight and other commercial and marketing activities.

In the near term, NASA developed a five-point plan building on the work of the last decade. These plans have all developed opportunities, policies and information that can be found on this website.

  1. NASA established a commercial use and pricing policy for the International Space Station (ISS) that will enable companies to reduce uncertainty and build business plans as they seek to perform purely commercial activities, including marketing;
  2. NASA has announced the intent to enable flight of private astronauts to the ISS with the first mission as early as 2020, including a solicitation as a mechanism to enable the assessment and approval of these missions;
  3. NASA has initiated a process for developing commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, including the overall strategy, timeline, and a synopsis for the solicitation of the ISS’s Node 2 Forward Port;
  4. NASA has laid out a plan to pursue opportunities to stimulate scalable and sustainable demand for LEO destinations including solicitations with calls for in-space manufacturing and regenerative medicine flight demonstrations, as well as capability enhancements for the ISS National Lab;
  5. NASA has updated a white paper quantifying the agency’s long term needs in LEO.

To evaluate this plan and the effectiveness, NASA is seeking feedback from industry and others through a Request for Information (RFI) on this plan and the five steps that have been outlined above by 07/03/2019.