BusinessLEO

Vast to Bid on Private Astronaut Missions to the ISS

Image: Vast illustration

Vast announced its intention to compete for NASA contracts to organize private astronaut missions to the ISS—a role that has been filled exclusively by Axiom Space since the flights commenced in 2022. 

Vast would bid for NASA’s fifth and sixth private astronaut missions. 

Don’t call it a vacay: The NASA-organized program creates a pathway for individuals who are not affiliated with the NASA astronaut corps to travel to the ISS. The private astronauts typically spend just a few weeks at the ISS, treating the trip as a research mission rather than a vacay. (Scientist sounds better than tourist.)

  • Axiom has coordinated three of these private missions and was awarded a fourth mission (Ax-4) last year.  
  • Axiom secures customers, provides spaceflight training, and handles general operations, while SpaceX handles launch and transport via Crew Dragon. 

Vast, like Axiom, is in the human spaceflight/space station business. The company plans to launch its first commercial space station, Haven-1, next year. The single-module habitat will be launched aboard Falcon 9 and can accommodate four astronauts for a 30-day stay. 

Vast sees the private astronaut mission contract as an opportunity to gain experience in customer sales, training, medical, and general mission operations ahead of its own habitat deployment, while also stoking competition—a key motivator for NASA. 

“Diversity of providers will enhance competition and give customers more options,” Vast chief Max Haot wrote on X. “It will also help transfer critical ISS expertise from NASA to more potential commercial LEO destination providers.”

Odd one out: Vast did not receive NASA funding for the first batch of Commercial LEO Destination (CLD) contracts—which includes Voyager/Nanoracks, Axiom, and Blue Origin—but the company hopes to eventually be included in the program. “We certainly want to compete for that, and I think we’re a really good fit for what they’re looking for,” Vast’s founder Jed McCaleb told Payload in a 2022 interview. 

After deploying Haven-1, the company will look to build a larger habitat that can be launched aboard Starship.

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