As two companies move forward with plans to develop commercial modules for use on the International Space Station as precursors to independent space stations, NASA is soliciting concepts for use of a space station docking port.
NASA issued a request for information (RFI) July 1 about how “limited availability, unique International Space Station capabilities” could be used to support economic development in low Earth orbit. “This RFI is being used to determine private market interest in using unique ISS capabilities that have limited availability in order to advance economic development in LEO,” the document states.
That request specifically mentions future use of the aft docking port on the Node 3, or Tranquility, module. That port is currently occupied by the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), installed on the station earlier this year for a two-year test. It would thus be available for use by other modules as soon as 2018, when the BEAM is removed from the station.