WASHINGTON — Vast Space has brought in a former NASA astronaut and SpaceX official to serve as an adviser for its plans to develop commercial space stations.
Vast announced July 11 that it has appointed Garrett Reisman as a human spaceflight adviser. He will assist the company, which announced plans in May to develop a single-module station called Haven-1 as a precursor for future, larger space stations.
Reisman joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1998 and spent three months on the International Space Station in 2008 as part of the Expedition 16 and 17 crews, and another 12 days on the STS-132 shuttle mission to the ISS in 2010. He retired from the astronaut corps in 2011 and worked for SpaceX for several years in various capacities, including director of space operations. He is currently a professor of astronautical engineering at the University of Southern California.
In an interview, Reisman said a former SpaceX colleague, now working at Vast, reached out to him with a technical question. That led to discussions with Vast executives about assisting the company. “I got excited by what I saw, which was a really interesting company doing some really cool work,” he said.
He said he is particularly interested in the ability of Vast’s space stations to spin and create artificial gravity. “We have a lot of data at zero G and tons of data at one G about what it does to the human body. We have no idea what happens in between,” he said. Those stations, he said, could help answer questions such as how much partial gravity is needed to prevent some of the deleterious effects of microgravity on human physiology.
Max Haot, president of Vast, said the company was looking for someone intimately familiar with human spaceflight to assist its development of Haven-1. “The company had not yet gotten to the point where we had anyone with human spaceflight experience, who had gone to space,” he said. “I think it’s obvious to everyone that if you design a space station, you should have at least one, if not more, astronauts on board to help you with the process.”
Reisman, he said, was an ideal fit because of both his NASA astronaut experience and work at SpaceX. Vast is working with SpaceX to launch Haven-1 and use Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport astronauts to the station.
Reisman said he plans to focus on operations and safety. “I think those two things go hand-in-hand,” he said, to “make sure we hope for the best and plan for all possible outcomes.”
Since Vast announced Haven-1 in May, the company has signed an agreement with Impulse Space to use thrusters from that company on the spacecraft. It was also one of seven companies that won unfunded NASA Space Act Agreements to support work on commercial space capabilities.
“This is a great opportunity for us to build the relationship with NASA but also leverage a lot of their expertise,” Haot said of that agreement. It also includes “many technology milestones” to track its progress, he noted.
Reisman, besides advising Vast, will continue as a senior adviser for SpaceX. He said that company had no issues with him also advising Vast since the two companies are working together.
He also continues his teaching at USC, where he says he sees strong interest from students in careers in commercial human spaceflight. Some of his students have taken his class on human spaceflight out of a “vague interest” in the topic but have since gone on to pursue careers in the field.
“In a way I’m very jealous because it’s such a wonderful time to be working in this industry,” he said. “Coming as an engineer straight out of college there’s so many opportunities now that I didn’t have when I was finishing up my education.”