The Administrator for NASA Jim Bridenstine has said he believes that the potential increase in commercial usage of the International Space Station (ISS) will lead to the "industrialisation" of low earth orbit (LEO).
Speaking at the ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta on 31 July, Bridenstine proposed a new project for encouraging commercial activity on the ISS and elsewhere in LEO.
The move would support not just the space industry, with implications of helping the national economy as well.
Bridenstein explained that developing research and development projects using the ISS could lead to the proliferation of commercial activity in low Earth orbit, which in turn would aid the US national economy.
He went on to say that "we want space to be utilised to improve the human condition here on Earth."
"We want to prove capabilities and prove technologies, prove markets, that ultimately enable us to do more in space and have more people in space, more projects in space, commercialise space, industrialise space and, of course, have this be a major driver for the United States of America economically when it comes to the balance of payments and exports," he added.
"That's the ultimate objective of the United States of America leading in space."
He paraphrased the concept as: "Industrialisation builds nations, and if we want to build space, we need to industrialise ... the International Space Station is an amazing tool for that activity."
Bridenstein also highlighted NASA’s relationship with the ISS National Lab, formerly the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space that currently operates a designated area of ISS considered by the US government as a 'national lab.'
In his speech, Bridenstine praised the advances in industrial, biomedical, and new materials by the organization.
This declaration comes just after the announcement by NASA of a huge commercialisation plan for the ISS in June at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York.
The project will allow for the ISS to be a platform for manufacturing and marketing. It will permit two annual missions of commercial crew providers to transport private astronauts to the station, as reported by Space News.
NASA has even released prices, charging astronauts around $35,000 per day for the right to use station resources such life support systems, as well as the cost of arranging the flights.
The president and chief executive of the ISS National Lab, Joseph Vockley, corroborated the claims, saying that the collaboration with NASA could lead to commercial achievements.
"We feel like we have a great opportunity to help NASA achieve their goals, our goals, and benefit humankind," he said.
Advertisement potential, industrial biomedicine, development of optical fibres, and space tourism are some areas which space could provide a commercial platform for, according to Caleb Williams, the lead economic analyst at SpaceWorks.
However, Bhavya Lal from the Institute for Defence Analysis' Science and Technology Policy Institute cited a study at a House Science Committee hearing regarding the future of low earth orbit.
The study concluded that no commercial space station could possibly generate a profit before 2025, which is the year NASA plans to end federal funding of the International Space Station.
Bridenstine did mention, however, that a bill passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate could extend NASA’s authorisation to operate the ISS until 2030.
An incentive for expanding commercial space operations is to reduce the tax-payer cost of the ISS.
The project comes amid calls from the US government to begin the militarisation of space.
US President Donald Trump proposed the development of a 'Space Force' in 2020, which would be an official branch of the US military providing space warfare services.