from the grockles-of-means dept.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
In an Aug. 1 procurement notice, NASA announced changes in requirements for future solicitations for private astronaut missions, or PAMs, to the station. The changes, the agency said, came from the experience from the first such mission, Axiom Space’s Ax-1 flight in April, “and other recent civilian-crew spaceflight.”
One of the biggest changes, and one still being finalized according to the procurement notice, is a requirement that such missions have “a former flown NASA (U.S.) government astronaut” as a commander. “A former NASA astronaut provides experienced guidance for the private astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution,” the document states, and “provides a link between the resident ISS expedition crew and the private astronauts and reduces risk to ISS operations and PAM/ISS safety.”
The Ax-1 mission was led by a former NASA astronaut, Michael López-Alegría. The company’s second mission, the only other PAM approved to date by NASA, will also be led by a former NASA astronaut, Peggy Whitson.
“It became pretty clear, first of all, that customers really didn’t want to fly with nobody who has done it before,” López-Alegría recalled of planning for the Ax-1 mission during a talk at the ISS Research and Development Conference July 28. “Secondly, NASA was a lot more comfortable having someone who had been there before.”
However, Axiom executives said shortly before the Ax-1 mission that they were looking ahead to missions without a professional astronaut on board. Michael Suffredini, president and chief executive of Axiom, said at an April 1 briefing that the company expected to fly four customers, rather than three customers and one professional astronaut, by its fourth mission.