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Bigelow announced plans for a private astronaut flight to the space station – Spaceflight Now


NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken (foreground) and Doug Hurley (background) practice in the Crew Dragon simulator for their flight to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX / NASA

Bigelow Space Operations said it would charge $ 52 million per seat to send private astronauts to the International Space Station on Crew Dragon ferries, and had paid "large amounts" to SpaceX for up to four special crew missions to the orbiting research complex.

The announcement was issued in a June 7 statement by Robert Bigelow, founder of rich Nevada's Bigelow Aerospace and Bigelow Space Operations, hours after NASA launched a plan to use the International Space Station to commercialize low Earth orbits for human space flights.

Bigelow said the company made an initial payment to SpaceX in September 2018.

"These four launches are special flights which each carry up to four people for a period of one to two months on the ISS," Bigelow wrote.

One of the principles of NASA's plan is to open a space station for private astronauts, along with an initiative to make a dock at the station available for commercial modules. Under the policy of the new space agency, the space station can accommodate up to two visits by commercial astronauts per year, each with several passengers.

Depending on how many seats are filled in commercial crew vehicles, the space station can accommodate "a dozen or more private astronauts, potentially, per year," Robyn Gatens, deputy director of the space station program at NASA Headquarters, said last week. announcement in New York.

The Dragon Crew Crew and Starliner capsules are commercially under development by SpaceX and Boeing can each carry up to seven astronauts per flight. For missions dedicated to NASA, four astronauts will board a spacecraft to and from the station, along with cargo.

International Space Station. Credit: NASA / Roscosmos

In his written statement, Bigelow did not say when special private astronaut flights would explode, or if Bigelow had obtained a commitment from customers to fly to the station.

"BSO was very pleased with NASA's announcement last Friday," Bigelow wrote. "BSO has demonstrated its sincerity and commitment to move forward on NASA's commercialization plan for the ISS through the implementation of the September launch contract.

"BSO intends to thoroughly digest all information disbanded last week so that all opportunities and obligations to make flights and activities of new astronauts to the ISS can be carried out responsibly," Bigelow wrote.

Bigelow founded Bigelow Space Operations in 2018 to oversee the commercial space station developed by the sister company Bigelow Aerospace, which he founded in 1999 to design and manufacture modules that can be expanded to form pressurized habitats in space.

The initial cost of a commercial astronaut's trip to the International Space Station will be around $ 52 million per person, according to Bigelow.

"The next big question is when will all this happen? After SpaceX rockets and capsules are certified by NASA to fly people to the ISS, this program can be started, "Bigelow wrote.

"As you might imagine, as they say & # 39; the devil is in the details, & there are many," Bigelow wrote. "But we are very happy and optimistic that all this can work together, and BSO has skin in the game."

NASA said on June 7 that, in addition to transportation costs, the space agency would charge around $ 35,000 per day per astronaut to use the space, communication, power and space station assistance. It is not clear whether Bigelow's price of $ 52 million includes accommodation costs at the station, or only transportation services.

The Dragon Crew spacecraft retreated from the International Space Station after resigning March 8 at the end of a six-day pilotless demonstration mission. Credit: SpaceX

Despite the recent delays, NASA is still expecting at least one of the commercial crew capsules to fly astronauts to the space station at the end of the year, then start a regular crew rotation mission in 2020.

SpaceX's CrewX capsule completed its first non-patented trial flight to the station in March, but the spacecraft was destroyed in a ground-test crash in April when engineers prepared it for a cancelation test scheduled for this summer.

The team will prepare a Crew Dragon vehicle which is ranked second room, which was previously assigned to bring astronauts to the station, for high altitude abortion tests. Crew Dragon's third line from SpaceX at Hawthorne, California, will now be used for the next trial flight to the space station with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.

The target launch date for abortion tests and astronaut flights, which will take off from Florida with SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, is being reviewed.

Meanwhile, Boeing is preparing its first Starliner test flight to take off from Cape Canaveral soon after mid-August United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket ride. Un piloted missions will dock with the space station and return to Earth for parachute assistance in the United States West.

If the mission goes well, Boeing can launch a second Starliner test flight with astronauts as soon as November.

Both crew capsules are being developed and flown with NASA funds. The space agency has a multimillion-dollar contract with SpaceX and Boeing that covers the design, development and demonstration of each spacecraft, plus six crew rotation missions by each contractor until the early 2020s.

Crew Dragon and Starliner debut will end NASA's only dependence on Russian Soyuz crew ships to transport astronauts to the space station.

Under a recent contract with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, NASA paid more than $ 80 million per seat for round-trip flights with the Soyuz spacecraft. NASA said the average cost for flights with Crew Dragon and Starliner was around $ 58 million.

Published Bigelow price quotes show that personal astronaut trips will be cheaper than NASA astronaut flights.

Boeing has an agreement with Space Adventures to fly private astronauts on a Starliner mission to the space station. Space Adventures set up the first space tourism flight in 2001 with US businessman Dennis Tito, who spent almost eight days in space en route to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

"We are pleased to see NASA's announcement today, and commend NASA's efforts in the consulting industry to inform NASA's strategies and policies. Space Adventures is pleased to have been a major contributor to NASA in the process, "the company said in a June 7 statement.

Space Adventures recently set up a space tourism mission in 2009 with Canadian artists and businessmen Guy Laliberté. The company said last week that they can now book flights to stations with Soyuz or Starliner missions.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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