Bigelow to Charge $52 million For Private Astronaut Flights to ISS

Bigelow to Charge $52 million For Private Astronaut Flights to ISS

Bigelow Space Operations has paid deposits and reservation fees to SpaceX to take private astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).  The company says it will charge $52 million per seat for missions of one or possibly two months.

In a statement posted to Twitter, hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow said flights will begin after SpaceX’s commercial crew space transportation system is certified by NASA. Bigelow is President of Bigelow Aerospace and Bigelow Space Operations (BSO), as well as Budget Suites of America.

Bigelow asserts that BSO paid SpaceX “substantial sums as deposits and reservation fees” in September 2018 to secure “up to four” flights to ISS, each of which could carry as many as four people.  The missions could last “one to possibly two months on the ISS.”

That statement is somewhat at odds with what NASA announced on Friday.  ISS Deputy Program Director Robyn Gatens said the missions would last no longer than 30 days.

Bigelow said BSO would “digest” all the information NASA released on Friday to ensure the missions will be “responsibly performed.”

The price is $52 million per person.

NASA said it will charge $35,000 per person per night to use its resources on the ISS such as food, life support, and communications.  That does not include the cost of transportation to and from ISS and any required training. Bigelow’s price presumably includes all of that.

Bigelow said in his statement that flights will begin “once the SpaceX rocket and capsule are certified by NASA to fly people to the ISS.”

SpaceX is developing one of two commercial crew space transportation systems under a public-private partnership with NASA.  Its Crew Dragon spacecraft will be launched by SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.  It successfully completed the first of two test flights to the ISS in March.  No one was aboard that mission, but it docked with ISS and the ISS crew conducted operations with it over 5 days before it returned to Earth and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

In April, however, an “anomaly” occurred during preparations for an In-Flight Abort test that destroyed that very same Crew Dragon capsule.  SpaceX and NASA continue to investigate what went wrong.  SpaceX must complete the abort test and a crewed test flight to the ISS as part of the certification process.  Dates for those tests are pending.

Boeing is building the other commercial crew system, Starliner.  It has not conducted any of its required test flights yet, but NASA remains optimistic that at least one of the two systems will be operational by next year.

Bigelow Aerospace is better known in the space business for its expandable space modules. It has been working with NASA for many years on that effort and a small prototype, BEAM, is attached to the ISS right now.  The company plans to build much larger modules for use in space or on the Moon.

Robert Bigelow (right) and NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier (left) discuss the BEAM module at a March 12, 2015 event at Bigelow’s facility in Las Vegas. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace.


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