On Thursday morning, NASA held a press conference to announce that the International Space Station is now open for business. Previously, commercial organizations have only been able to use the ISS for research purposes; now NASA is open to letting them make a profit in low Earth orbit (LEO). “We’re marketing these opportunities as we’ve never done before,” said NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt earlier today.
For starters, the space agency issued a new directive that allows commercial manufacturing and production to occur on the ISS, as well as marketing activities. It’s not quite “anything goes,” though—approved activities have to have a link to NASA’s mission, stimulate the development of a LEO economy, or actually require a zero-G environment. NASA has published a price list for the ISS, and it’s setting aside five percent of the station’s annual resources (including astronaut time and cargo mass) for commercial use.
Be prepared to pay to reach LEO. The cheapest cargo option is $3,000/kg to get it there, then an additional $3,000/kg to dispose of it in the trash. If you want it back again, that’ll be a $6,000/kg return fee, although round trip prices per kg are more expensive if you need power or life support on the way home.