Liftoff of the Proton rocket and the Zarya control module.. The first segments of the International Space Station were launched in 1998. And since 2000 the ISS has continuously housed a rotating group of astronauts from 19 countries. At about 250 miles above the earth. The International Space Station occupies an area known as low earth orbit or LEO and houses the only laboratory available for long duration, microgravity research.. This research has been instrumental in a number of scientific developments, including creating more efficient water, filtration systems and exploring new ways to treat diseases such as Alzheimers and cancer., But its starting to show its age. Astronauts launched a very complicated series of spacewalks today to fix a Cosmic ray detector at the International Space Station. Space is a harsh environment and weve. Seen over the past couple of years, small leaks appear within the space station.. These are not life, threatening. Theres, nothing serious., But it is an indication that the lifetime of the International Space Station might be coming to an end.. The International Space Station is currently approved to operate through at least December 2024, with our agreements with the international partners.. However, as we are actively working to continue to do science and research, we understand that the ISS at some point will have its end of life., But NASA will likely not build the next space station.. Instead, the agency will depend on the technology of outside companies.. A few like Colorado based Sierra Space are well on their way to constructing their own commercial space station.

. So here we are in the inside of our LIFE element. Its nearly 30 feet in diameter.. We have it broken up into three decks. Space station. Right now is jam packed. Theres, no room., Theres, no capacity., So by starting with a large unit volume and then being able to build up a station from multiple elements allows you to greatly scale the capacity of your space station, not just for NASA astronauts and international Astronauts, but for commercial activities such as manufacturing., Because, right now we just dont have the space to do those things. As space enters the commercial age heres. What a new international space station may look like. Over the last couple of years, NASA has increasingly relied on outside companies to complete tasks that have traditionally been reserved for the government agency. Under its Commercial Resupply Services program. Nasa has contracts with SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to send cargo resupply missions to the ISS.. Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private sector company to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS under NASAs Commercial Crew. Program. Boeing is also under contract as part of the program, but is still conducting uncrewed tests. The Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply programs are largely considered a success for NASA.. Last year, the agency estimated that the Commercial Crew program saved the government between 20 and 30 billion dollars. Since SpaceX and Boeing each designed their own spacecraft under the contract NASA had the added benefit of having a backup in case.

Something should happen with one of the vehicles.. This has proved wise, as Boeing has struggled to get its spacecraft certified for human flight.. Nasa is now hoping to replicate the success of its Commercial Crew and commercial cargo programs with the Commercial LEO Destinations project.. As part of the project, NASAs plans to award up to 400 million in total to as many as four companies to begin development of private space, stations. Covering just part of the developmental costs of the station, would be a big money. Saver for NASA. The ISS cost 150 billion to build and the U.S. picked up the largest chunk of that bill ahead of its partners. Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.. Nasa also spends about 4 billion a year to operate. The ISS. Development of new markets and new technologies is very expensive, and the government is usually the prime party to make those things happen.. We have done that in LEO, and so we do expect that we will save money. Moving to this model., A number of private companies are already well on their way to launching private space stations.. One of the companies at the forefront of creating a commercial space station is Houston based, Axiom Space.. In fact, back in 2020 NASA awarded the company a 140 million contract to provide at least one habitable module to attach the International Space Station. Axiom Space plans on starting out with four modules.. The first two will be crew quarters that will be decked out with infotainment systems and massive windows overlooking earth.

. Some space will also be reserved for research and technology development projects.. The third module will be geared strictly towards research and manufacturing, and the fourth will be a solar array so that Axioms modules can separate and operate independently from the ISS, when its eventually retired. Prior to that well be getting power from the ISS. But well fly up. Our own solar arrays on the fourth module. Well have our own airlock so that we could do spacewalks. And then once we separate from the ISS, we have the ability to continue to add to our station really indefinitely. And we envision being able to add modules that Are custom for customers. We might build an entire module thats specific to a particular customers manufacturing or research. Needs. Funding for its new space station will also likely come from Axioms. Private astronaut, missions. Axiom has a deal with SpaceX to use the companys Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to fly a total of four crewed missions to the ISS, starting as early as January 2022.. Although Axiom does not make the price of its private missions public a flight with Axiom is estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars as NASA pays SpaceX about 55 million per seat to fly its astronauts to the space station.. But Axiom is confident that it can build a station thats much cheaper than the 150 billion dollars NASA spent on the ISS.. We think we need about 1.2 billion or so to to build the four modules and were on track to do that.

. One of the ways Axiom has been able to bring down the cost of its space station is by utilizing technologies from other industries.. Our battery technology is very similar to electric vehicle battery technology.. The computer chip in your iPhone say an iPhone 10 or newer is very, very similar to the chip that well use as our computer. Axiom Space plans to launch its first module in 2024 and its fourth module toward the end of 2027.. Sierra Space is another company. Thats been working on building a commercial space station.. This is just a mock up of how we might divide some of the space., So weve put up walls here and some basic curtains.. We have some crew quarter examples in here.. Some of these could be used as storage closets could be used for hygiene rooms, for brushing your teeth spending personal time. Certainly toilet space as well is required.. Since 2017, Sierra Space has been developing an inflatable structure that it calls the LIFE Habitat.. Originally, it was designed to be a habitat that could take four astronauts, basically from lunar orbit, to Mars, essentially designed for a thousand day mission.. Since then, Sierra Space has worked to adapt the design to also function as a habitat for the surface of Mars or the moon as well as act as a free floating commercial station in low earth. Orbit. CNBC saw a mockup of the LIFE Habitat at Kennedy. Space Center, where its undergoing testing.

The structure is 13, the volume of the International Space Station and spans 27 feet in both diameter and length.. The mockup we visited only had two floors, but the final version will have three. When we had astronauts in that were evaluating the space and the layout. One of the things they brought up is you can actually get trapped in the space in here. So because were so large, we have to be conscious of the fact that we have to make sure that theres holds and means that if a crew member is within This large space that they can actually grab a hold of something and move themselves to different spaces within the habitat.. The structure is meant to be inflated in space after its launched.. It was about 40 missions to build the space station.. We can have an operational space station up in two missions., Our LIFE Habitat, because it expands once we get it on orbit. We can get a lot of volume up there very, very quickly., So thats a thats, a pretty significant savings in both time and money compared to what we did on space station. Sierra Space is also developing its own transportation vehicle called the Dream Chaser.. When you talk about the three to four billion dollars a year, it costs to operate the space station, one of the big pieces of it is transportation. And so thats, where our Dream Chaser comes into play.. We have a reusable spacecraft that we can use a minimum of 15 times.

, So were reducing the cost of that.. The launch vehicle pricing is coming, down. Were taking advantage of that., So you have to reduce the cost of transportation. And you have to reduce the cost of operations.. Initially, Sierra Space believes its largest market will come from NASA and other countries. Space agencies who want to conduct research in zero gravity. But down the road. The company hopes to supplement that revenue stream with more commercial activities like manufacturing in space tourism and even TV and film production. Sierra Space says the initial elements of its space station will be in orbit by 2026 or 2027.. The race is on for private sector companies to launch a commercial space station before the ISS is retired likely within the decade.. Both Axiom Space and Sierra Space say that they are confident that they can have an operational space station up and running in time.. Another aerospace company Nanoracks plans to have its first private space stations up by 2024., But instead of building a whole new structure, Nanoracks plans to recycle the spent upper stages of rockets and transform them into research stations., But as with any space, endeavor timelines, often change. Just Take the Commercial Crew program., The programs original goal was to send astronauts to the ISS by 2017., But early funding cuts and a number of failed tests delayed the launch until 2020. And not having a station finished in time could spell real trouble for NASA.. If we retire, the International Space Station without having commercial space stations already theres, going to be a gap in capabilities And NASAs already experienced such a gap.

After the agency ended the shuttle program in 2011 NASA was forced to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to launch its Astronauts to the International Space Station. And the U.S. paid Russia a pretty penny. Over 90 million per seat. When SpaceX stepped in in 2020, that cost was reduced to 55 million per seat.. One of the things that is slowing down this effort that might contribute to a gap in the space station capabilities is the lack of funding that Congress has given NASA to kickstart. This commercial space station and commercial, lower orbit operations. In fiscal year, 2020 and 2021. Nasa requested 150 million for low earth orbit commercial development, but only received 15 million and 17 million respectively.. In July, the House granted NASA 45 million for commercial leo development. Less than half of what the organization had requested. Commercial companies can also expect competition from other countries.. This is a race to establish permanent presence in low earth orbit and the moon., And as of today, China seems to be winning that particular race. Tonights launch is the countrys first crewed flight in nearly five years, sending three astronauts to the space station its building as It seeks to become a major space faring power by 2030.. Russia is also planning its own space. Station. Serving government customers like NASA can be a springboard to kickstart, the economy for commercial companies., But a larger private market will likely be the key to their longterm. Success and potentially their biggest moneymaker.

NASA provides the money, but the money that NASA is providing is is wholly insufficient for us to do this.. So we would not do this or invest in it ourselves. If we did not believe in that market., We really think that manufacturing will be the real game. Changer. Theres been some really interesting demonstrations on the ISS, where people have flown experiments and theyve developed, fiber optic, cable, that has 100 times transmission length or theyve found ways to bio print, perfect retinal implants.. But if it was successful, then what There was no place to manufacture it at scale. And so by building a commercial space station and a commercial destination. We now have the ability to build things at scale and to manufacture things at scale and to help customers do that, including building an entire module, specifically for a customer to do that kind of manufacturing.. As for NASA, not having to invest in a space station, will free up money for other endeavors.