How to Become a Commercial Astronaut


As we transition out of the space exploration age to the Orbital Age®– private companies are transforming the industry like never before. Until quite recently, space travel was reserved for mostly government agencies and the average person was looking at a million-to-one shot at experiencing space travel – but that’s changing.

The concept of a commercial astronaut, employed or trained by a private company, has kicked open the door to astronautics. Sierra Space is building the workforce of the future that will include aspiring astronauts from a wide range of backgrounds.

So, how exactly does one become a commercial astronaut in this modern world? Let’s talk about it.

The Categories of Commercial Space Astronauts

(1) Career Astronaut

The first way an individual can become a commercial astronaut is to pursue a career with a private company.For example, at Sierra Space, we will hand-select astronauts for the most inclusive astronaut corps in history and thoroughly train them to perform a variety of space missions. We are also looking to expand the breadth of those who may qualify to fly by using inclusive criteria in our physical requirements.

These missions can include a range of activities: working on our low-Earth orbit commercial space station to run experiments to better the health of mankind, to manufacture items that can only be made in microgravity, and to guide our customers in a once-in-a-lifetime destination experience in space.

Our career astronauts will perform vital roles both in space and on Earth at our Human Spaceflight Center.

(2) Specialist Astronaut

Specialist astronauts are employees of space company partners who contract with Sierra Space for the opportunity to conduct research, manufacturing, and other objectives in microgravity. These Specialists will be commercial astronauts who will train to live and work in on our orbital destinations for an extended period of time to achieve specific professional goals. These specialists can include:

  • Microgravity researchers and scientists
  • Innovators
  • Manufacturers
  • Artists and designers
  • A wide range of other professionals

Although these are not career astronauts, they will undergo comprehensive astronaut training to ensure they have the proper training, tools, and knowledge for safe and successful operations in space.

(3) Experiential Astronaut

Lastly, an entryway to space travel for customers or partners that are not specialists or career astronauts.

These commercial astronauts are “everyday” individuals who may purchase the opportunity to visit space for incomparable views, personal research, outreach campaigns, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience. They will still undergo training to ensure their safety and the safety of others, but the training will be less rigorous and in-depth than for career or specialist astronauts.

The Sierra Space Training Academy wants to ensure that everyone is comfortable with launch, landing, zero-G, and safety requirements to provide the experiential astronauts with tools to accomplish their space goals. These astronauts may choose to focus their time on photographing Earth and space, participating in the tasks or experiments happening in orbit, or accomplishing any number of projects that cannot be done on Earth.

Bonus Option: Experience Space – Without Leaving Earth

You don’t have to become a full-fledged astronaut to experience space training. Sierra Space is one of the leading companies that will offer a realistic “astronaut experience” for those customers who would rather remain on Earth, but who still dream of experiencing space.

One such opportunity would help you develop astronaut-focused wilderness skills training for your adventurous side. More options are in the planning phases now.
Sierra Space Commercial Space Station

What Does It Take to Be a Commercial Astronaut?

“The experience of living and working in space constitutes a most profound and life-changing event in one’s life and is essential to further the cause of human life on Earth.  Sierra Space is dedicated to ensuring as many people as possible share this experience and are able to successfully complete their own mission – whatever that may be.”  Dr. Tom Marshburn.

If you’re looking to pursue any kind of space travel career and become a commercial astronaut, there are certain qualities companies like to see. These include:

✓ A Passion for Space Exploration and Innovation

There’s no other way to put it: becoming an astronaut requires genuine passion.

At Sierra Space, we’re looking for individuals who will push the boundaries of what we think is possible. Our ideal candidates are lifelong lovers of space – people dreaming of the next invention while pursuing their interests academically and professionally.

Although all kinds of people are welcome to pursue careers in commercial space exploration, any space company will appreciate a demonstration of passion through advanced degrees, an impressive work history, and/or years of relevant experience.

✓ Strong Emotional Intelligence

An essential quality in professional astronauts is a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). Space travelers work in demanding, often isolated environments, such as the ISS (International Space Station). This requires intensely effective communication, collaboration, and decision-making, as well as the ability to self-regulate and manage difficult emotions.

✓ Unique, Diverse Ways of Thinking

When we look for the astronauts of the future, we’re not looking for people who think exactly like us. Today’s trainees will become the ambassadors of space exploration, and we want them to bring revolutionary ideas and thought processes to the table.

✓ A Dedication to Thrive in Extreme Circumstances

From the rigorous training to the bodily demands of spacecraft travel, becoming an astronaut requires fortitude. Commercial astronauts will experience both mental and physical challenges, and they must be fully dedicated to the success and safety of their mission.

✓ Resilience

An ability and willingness to constantly problem-solve. This is a skill necessary to be successful in the face of a unique environment which we have never encountered on Earth.

“Spaceflight is the culmination of a life’s dream to explore beyond Earth’s bounds.  To look back on our planet is awe-inspiring and gives us a perspective that we cannot personally experience by any other means.” Janet Kavandi

Dr. Janet Kavandi former NASA astronaut training

What’s Involved in Commercial Astronaut Training?

Physical Fitness

As we mentioned, astronauts are subjected to a range of physical demands when training and traveling in space. Muscle atrophy, bone density loss, cardiovascular changes – the list goes on.

To successfully endure these bodily challenges, space travelers must possess a high level of physical fitness. Therefore, astronaut training includes:

  • A strength and endurance exercise regimen
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Bone and muscle health checks
  • Balance and coordination activities
  • Nutritional education

At Sierra Space, we prioritize the health and safety of our flight crews above all else. Our astronaut training program goes above and beyond to ensure their bodies are prepared for the physical demands of space.

Space Adaptation

Although no one can fully anticipate how it feels to travel in space, astronauts are thoroughly trained and prepared for the physiological effects beforehand. To achieve this, our training program includes:

  • Classroom education
  • Centrifuge runs
  • Parabolic flights
  • Extreme environment and isolation and leadership training
  • Medical training and research

Through a combination of education, simulations, and practical experiences, our astronauts gain a comprehensive understanding of the physiological effects of space travel. This empowers them to recognize, manage, and mitigate the challenges posed by the effects, ensuring their well-being and performance during missions.

Spaceplane Operations

Astronaut training involves the extensive use of simulators to replicate the environment of a spacecraft. These simulations help practice a variety of processes, including launch, re-entry, and emergency procedures.

At the end of the day, successful astronaut training gives individuals all of the necessary tools and experiences to ensure mission success, as well as their own safety.

About Our Astronaut Training Academy

We’re changing the future – and that includes training the workforce of tomorrow. As you read this, the Sierra Space Training Academy is preparing the next generation of astronauts to usher humankind into the orbital age.

Our program combines the best practices of legacy astronaut training with the agility and focus of a commercial spaceflight company. We’ll be developing skillsets that don’t even exist yet, and, more importantly, we’ll be training some of the most talented and ambitious explorers on the planet.

All three categories of future astronauts (career, specialist, and experiential) receive specific training for their roles. Whether they’ll be delivering payloads, helping with on-orbit experiments, or living and working in space, the academy will prepare them for what space holds.

The academy is led by Sierra Space’s Vice President Corbett Hoenninger, who worked at NASA Johnson Space Center on the Space Shuttle and ISS programs. He also has a history of working with the NASA Astronaut Training Program, and he’s proud to share his invaluable experience with the next generation of space engineers and astronauts.

Launch Your Space Career Today

Do you believe that space should be accessible to everyone, not just a select group of professional astronauts? We do.

Commercial astronauts are the workforce of the future, and although the concept is new, incredible opportunities are already blossoming.

At Sierra Space, we’re proud to be at the forefront of this charge, taking the next giant leap for humanity. We’re taking a holistic look at the interaction between astronauts and all of the systems in which they will interface – and that means discovering new talent.

If you’re interested in the Sierra Space Astronaut Training Academy, sign up for updates. We also invite you to explore potential career paths with our team, including aerospace internship opportunities.

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