Space Nation buys “office space” on the International Space Station

Space Nation, a Finnish startup that wants to train people for life in space, has announced its purchase of an area within the International Space Station (ISS). The plan will be to rent this “office space” out to agencies and research organisations that want to do experiments on the ISS.

There’s no watercooler, but Space Nation’s workplace will be divvied up into 18 compact modules, each measuring the equivalent of 10cmx10cmx10cm, which is designed to cater for a maximum of 12 simultaneous experiments. The idea is that a university, for example, may want to rent out a handful of these units for several months – enough time to conduct an experiment in zero gravity.

All of the units are held in a protective box that can withstand pressure and electrical changes, and will have an integrated video feed. The first box is slated for transport to the ISS in Q3 2018, via NASA’s regular cargo trips. Space Nation says this timescale should give research institutes enough time to apply and get experiments prepared, although it has yet to release details on how much a spot will cost (I’m told that the price will be around half that of the current market figure).

“It is very exciting to have our own ‘office’ space on the ISS,” said Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola, CEO of Space Nation. “We are looking forward to working with other companies who would like to use this opportunity to use this space for research and commercial purposes.”

Joining the United Nations

Space Nation has also announced that it will be the world’s first space tourism agency to be made an affiliate member of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The UNWTO is responsible for the promotion of sustainable tourism, so it’s quite a boon for Space Nation to secure a place as an affiliate member. The UN connection adds a valuable piece of credibility to the company’s plans to – in its words – “equip current and future generations with the skills and knowledge they will need in the upcoming space era”.

These efforts will largely centre on an ambitious app-slash-astronaut-training-program, which secured over 3 million euros in a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year. The app, due to launch at the beginning of 2018, will present users with daily challenges spread across mental, social and physical trials. After three months, 100 top-ranking competitors will be selected for a training session with an actually NASA astronaut trainer. 12 challengers will be picked from this bunch, to compete in a filmed series. At the end of this, one overall winner will secure a real trip into space.

The Space Nation Astronaut Training Program (SNAP) app sounds like it could certainly take off amongst wannabe astronauts. Given the current state of Western politics, a pan-global, utopian space contest could be just the thing to capture the imagination of citizens inundated with news about inward-looking countries and post-apocalyptic doom.

Then again, Space Nation will have its work cut out in proving that it’s making more than a grand freemium game. Securing space for experiments on the ISS and building ties with the UN is a good start, and it’ll be interesting to see how Space Nation goes forward within the burgeoning private space sector.