The private space industry gives NASA some ideas on how to set up a low orbit around the Earth – where the international space station circulates around our planet. an area full of commercial habitats and platforms for future space travelers. Potentially, these "destinations" can be used as locations for research and production in space to make a profit. But such a commercial utopia in orbit will not be easy until the costs of launching into space fall, NASA said.
Today, NASA has released brief proposals from 12 commercial companies – such as Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and more – about creating a viable commercial economy in a low orbit or LEO. NASA wanted these ideas from the private space industry to come up with the best way to eventually transfer the operation of the American space station from the international space station to the dime of the space agency. In 2018, the President's budget request suggested that direct government funding for the ISS be terminated by the end of 2024. NASA has said that by that time it wants to transfer its activities and the domain of a low orbit around the earth to the commercial space industry.
Ultimately, NASA still wants to have access to some a kind of human space station in a low orbit around the earth, so that the space agency continues to conduct research in space. Agency officials said they could pay to have access to a commercially run habitat in the future.
The study summaries (released as a series of slides on the NASA website) look at different ways in which commercial companies can take over activities in low orbit. Some companies, such as Blue Origin and NanoRacks, propose to build their own space stations from the shells of rockets orbited. Others, such as Axiom, argue for the launch of commercial modules that would first attach to the International Space Station for a few years before they would be demolished into separate private stations.
The studies considered a wide range of business models and suggested using these habitats as locations for filmmaking, sponsorship, sports, tourism and more. However, NASA noted that the high cost of transporting people and cargo to space could make it difficult for commercial companies to enter this new economic arena. The space agency suggested finding a way to help make more ISS accessible to companies, although NASA does not elaborate on what that means.
For the time being these studies are only concepts and NASA is not officially working on a method to commercialize a low orbit around the earth. It is also unclear what the future plans of NASA are for the international space station ISO and LEO in general. Some legislators, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), are trying to implement laws that will keep NASA from running the ISS until 2030. So the exact time frame for NASA moving out of this area of space is blurry, but commercial companies are starting to think of ways to make money from low flying space habitats.