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NASA Postpones Solicitation Procedures for ‘Free-Flying’ LEO Station

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NASA is terminating plans to develop a “free-flyer” commercial station as part of the agency’s long-term effort to commercialize operations in low-Earth orbit (LEO), SpaceNews reported Thursday.

In October, the agency issued a draft solicitation for the standalone station in LEO as part of Appendix K under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership (NextSTEP) program.

NASA intends to use NextSTEP technologies to eventually transition commercial operations from the International Space Station (ISS) to industry-built LEO platforms.

Angela Hart, manager for LEO commercialization at NASA, told attendees at the recent ISS Research and Development Conference that the agency is reevaluating its Appendix K solicitation and planning to develop a strategy for related efforts.

“I can’t promise any specific timelines associated with that, but we are definitely working on the free flyer and intend to release a solicitation soon on that once we get our strategy all agreed to internally,” she noted.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight programs at NASA, noted that the agency’s long-term goal is to have more than one commercial platform in orbit.

Hart and McAlister’s comments come after NASA awarded Axiom Space a potential $140M contract in March to build a habitation module that will be attached to the ISS.