NASA ups price of a private stay aboard the ISS to reflect true expense of keeping tourists alive in space

Should cover the cost of the air leaking out of the Russian segment


Fancy a stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS)? It is about to get a lot pricier for future private astronaut missions.

NASA last published its commercial pricing policy in 2019, and price tags included $22,500 per person per day for supplies such as food, air and exercise equipment. Life support (and using the toilet) came in at $11,500.

The agency has now said that the policy "did not reflect full reimbursement for the value of NASA resources", it was only there to stimulate the market and was planned to be "adjusted".

In some cases, that adjustment has been to the tune of several million dollars.

While there is no cost for what NASA calls "ISS Baseline Capabilities" (such as life support), pre-staging food and crew provisions using NASA vehicles will come in at anywhere from $88,000 to $164,000 per person per day. The rate for NASA ISS crew time has been set at $130,000 per hour.

The really big ticket items are, however, integration and the base cost of the ISS crew support. The former, which covers NASA integration, comes in at $4.8m per mission. The latter, for supporting visiting vehicles and on-orbit familiarisation for private astronauts, will cost $5.2m per mission.

"Due to the complexity of private astronaut missions and differing mission concepts, reimbursable values for these missions may vary," NASA added.

The update should not affect the first entirely private crew to the ISS, Axiom Space's AX-1. The mission is due for launch in early 2022 aboard a chartered Crew Dragon and consists of an Axiom professional astronaut and three private customers. Subsequent missions will require discussion, and NASA noted that "detailed pricing will be negotiated at time of mission award and contract or agreement finalization."

Exactly how many of these missions might happen is open for debate. NASA expects no more than two short-duration (less than 30 days) missions with private astronauts per year and funding for the ISS is due to run through at least 2024. Axiom Space has claimed its own private space station will be operational by then.

In the meantime, NASA's update is reminder that the cute #DemocratizationofSpace hashtags doing the rounds only really apply to those with a good few million dollars to throw around. ®

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