The International Space Station will be open to commercial space travel for tourists and private astronauts from 2020. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said this is part of its effort to help "grow a robust space economy," The ISS, which took the Russian space agency and 13 other countries to help build it, orbits about 240 miles above the Earth ’s surface, traveling around the globe every 90 minutes.

The announcement has come at a time when the U.S. government ’s plans to fully privatize the International Space Station by the year 2025, with NASA saying it will save money by leveraging private industry capacity, innovation and competitiveness.

Jeff DeWit, NASA chief financial officier, said the agency is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing it as never done before. He said they are keen to have the private sector become more involved in space, including the development of products useful on Earth.

International Space Station Astronauts aboard ISS working to fix a 2mm-wide leak. Pictured, ISS in orbit. Photo: NASA

An official press release said the space agency will support up to two private astronaut missions, up to 30 days each, to the space station each year. “The private astronauts will take a NASA-approved commercial space vehicle to the space station, and they will conduct commercial and marketing work on the station or in work spaces attached to the station.”

This is part of NASA’s Strategic Objective 2.1 that directs the agency to "lay the foundation for America to maintain a constant human presence in low-Earth orbit (LEO) to be enabled by a commercial market."

Those wanting to experience space travel, provided by Space X and Boeing, will have to come up with $58 million as that is the cost of the return ticket. Private astronauts will also have to pay for boarding and lodging, which will cost them about $35,000 per night. The BBC said private astronauts will also have to determine their crew composition and meet the medical and training requirements for the spaceflight.

However, competition to send private astronauts into space will be tough and swift as the Russian space agency also has similar plans to send tourists into space along the "Gagarin Route" by 2021. The Gagarin Route is named after the famous Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who was the first human to orbit Earth in 1961.