The US space agency said it would open the orbiting International space station (ISS) to tourism and other business ventures. There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS. The first component of the ISS was launched into orbit in 1998, and the station has been continually occupied since November 2000. "Nasa is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before," chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York. The new commercial opportunities announced are part of a trajectory towards full privatization of the ISS.