Sunday, 13 October, 2019

US wants to privatise International Space Station

Sandra Phillips | 12 February, 2018, 06:53

News broke last month that the Trump administration was planning to cut off funding to the International Space Station by 2025, but it was assumed that they either planned to de-orbit the station, or that they simply hadn't thought that far ahead.

That's according to The Washington Post, which says it's obtained a NASA document that outlines plans for privatization when the USA government stops funding the station in 2025. In other words, to transition to some sort of a public-private partnership.The document says NASA will expand global and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to "ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit".

A budget request to be issued today by the Trump administration will call for US$150 million (RM593 million) to be spent on the ISS in the 2019 fiscal year, and more in succeeding years, "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS. are operational when they are needed".

NASA will release its budget proposal Monday, and the privatization plan will reportedly be included.

However, the Washington Post also reported that the White House apparently doesn't have anyone specific in mind to take over the space station, which costs $US3 -4 billion a year to run and has already run the federal government almost $US100 billion in construction, maintenance, and operational costs.

The fate of the ISS could hinge on a NASA feasibility study into whether the life of the iconic station could be extended to 2028 or beyond.

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But some questioned who would want to take over the station. The NASA document says that ending federal support of the ISS doesn't mean it will necessarily come down, as "it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements of capabilities of the ISS of a future commercial platform".

NASA could stop funding to the International Space Station after 2024, at which point a commercial venture could take over.

. "It's inherently always going to be an worldwide construct that requires United States government involvement and multinational cooperation".

Aerospace company Boeing now operates the station for NASA, which costs $US3 to $US4 billion each year.

Aeronautics giant Boeing now operates the station - which weighs roughly 460 tons - on behalf of NASA.

"NASA will expand global and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit", the document says. NASA would just be one of the ISS or that theoretical future private space station's clients, reversing the current arrangement where NASA personnel and their global partners manage the station and conduct onboard experiments.

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