The International Space Station is set to retire at the end of the 2020’s and so NASA is looking into ways to allow private companies to build private and commercial space stations for travellers.

NASA is looking at private companies to build new space stations in orbit. This will hopefully save the agency more $1 billion USD annually as a result, according to CNBC.

This is all in line with what NASA have said earlier this year when they unveiled their Commercial LEO Destinations project which will award $400 million USD in total contracts to no more than four companies to start building private space stations.

Phil McAlister, NASA’s Director of Commercial Spaceflight, told CNBC that NASA had “received roughly about a dozen proposals” from a variety of companies. He continued,

“We got an incredibly strong response from industry to our announcement for proposals for commercial, free fliers that go directly to orbit. I can’t remember the last time we got that many proposals [in response] to a [human spaceflight] contract announcement.”

The reason for all this is because the ISS costs NASA about $4 billion to run every year and with it coming towards retirement in either 2024 or 2028, NASA are looking at cost cutting options. According to McAlister, NASA wants “to be just one of many users instead of the primary sponsor and infrastructure supporter” for stations in low Earth orbit.

“This strong industry response shows that our plan to retire the International Space Station in the latter part of this decade and transition to commercial space destinations is a viable, strong plan. We are making tangible progress on developing commercial space destinations where people can work, play and live.”

Right now the agency is reviewing the proposals and hopes to come to a decision before the end of the year. While they haven’t stated who these companies are, when they hosted an industry briefing in March, you saw recognisable names like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Airbus, and Boeing in the mix.

In addition, NASA “will not need anything near as big and as capable” as the ISS in the future. McAlister said that the private stations “could be very large, but NASA will only be paying for the part that we need.”

For further details, please read CNBC’s coverage as they discuss the public-private model NASA are implementing and its current endeavours with Axiom Space.

In other space age news, NASA have started testing their new air taxis.