NASA to invite private companies to install modules on space station

Updated: 2016-10-13 10:01


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NASA to invite private companies to install modules on space station

The International Space Station (ISS) crew members (L to R) Jeff Williams of the US, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Russia, are seen inside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft capsule after landing near the town of Zhezkazgan (Dzhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, September 7, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON -- US space agency NASA has opened its door to allow private companies to install their own modules on the International Space Station.

NASA will start the process for providing companies with the potential opportunity of adding "their own modules and other capabilities" to the space station this fall, John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Charles Bolden, head of the US space agency, wrote in a blog this week.

According to the blog, NASA recently asked US companies how they might use an available docking port on the space station, and those companies responded "enthusiastically", indicating "a strong desire" to attach a commercial module to the orbiting laboratory.

Holdren and Bolden said the agency is "also working to support and grow the community of scientists and entrepreneurs conducting research and growing businesses in space,"

"A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," they noted.

The space station has been in orbit since 1998 and currently consists of 15 connected modules built by the US, Russia, Japan and Europe.

The space station was originally scheduled to come out of service in 2024 and then splash into the Pacific Ocean, but early this year, a NASA official pledged to hand it over to "either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit."