Read More: Space.com
In the not-too-distant future, NASA astronauts might conduct their video interviews from the International Space Station (ISS) while wearing Nike-supplied T-shirts, with a giant Toyota logo visible on the module wall behind them. NASA is developing a commercial-use policy for the orbiting lab, to open up more opportunities for private companies, agency officials said. "Today, there's a number of activities that are prohibited. They can't do advertising and marketing, and fly trinkets — things that are pure for-profit activities," NASA ISS Deputy Director Robyn Gatens said Wednesday (Feb. 28) during a presentation with the agency's Future In-Space Operations working group. "We would like to broaden that, but we need to explore what policy or legal or programmatic changes we would have to make in order to do that," Gatens added. "So, we're starting to dive into that and develop that policy so that we can allow these commercial entities to use the ISS to begin experimenting with a broader set of market possibilities." That's not to imply that there's no commercial activity associated with the ISS now. The private companies SpaceX and Orbital ATK already launch robotic cargo missions to the orbiting lab. And SpaceX and Boeing hold multibillion-dollar NASA contracts to ferry agency astronauts to and from the station; if all goes well, these taxi flights could begin in the next year or so. In addition, an inflatable module built by Nevada company Bigelow Aerospace has been attached to the ISS since April 2016. And a great deal of commercial research is conducted aboard the U.S. segment of the station, an officially designated national laboratory that's managed by the nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).