from the Privatized-International-Space-Station-==-PISS? dept.
NASA may sell/lease parts of the International Space Station in the next decade:
NASA has signalled its intention to offload the International Space Station (ISS) some time in the 2020s. News of the sale appeared in the video below, at about the 14:15 mark [YouTube] when Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, ponders the ISS' role in future missions.
"Ultimately our desire is to hand the space station to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit. We figure that will be around the mid-20s."
Hill and the other speakers in the video explain how NASA is preparing for a crewed Mars mission and outline how the agency is now well and truly in the market for ideas about how to get it done.
Discovery Magazine reports that in a landmark decision Russia has announced initial plans to build a new orbital space station together with NASA to replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is set to operate until 2024.
Igor Komarov, the head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, made the announcement flanked by NASA administrator Charles Bolden at Russia's Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan. "Roscosmos together with NASA will work on the programme of a future orbital station," said Komarov. "We agreed that the group of countries taking part in the ISS project will work on the future project of a new orbital station." Russia had said earlier this year it planned to create its own space station after 2024 using its modules from the ISS after it is mothballed. The two agencies will be unifying their standards and systems of manned space programs, according to Komarov. “This is very important to future missions and stations.”
The next goal for the two agencies is a joint mission to Mars said NASA chief Charles Bolden. “Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication.”
NASA has confirmed that the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is mulling whether or not to continue staffing the International Space Station with its usual complement of astronauts.
Last week the Russian newspaper Izvestia quoted Sergei Krikalev, director of manned programs at Roscosmos, saying that the agency had approached NASA about reducing its standard ISS crew count from three to two. Russia has had three astronauts on rotation in the ISS since 2010, but apparently that will be changing.
Krikalev said that delays in building the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), the nodal unit (a structural join), and the scientific and power module – let alone lofting them into orbit – meant there was no need for three local astronauts on station. Cutting one would save money and allow Russia to auction off the place to space tourists.
"We'll look at it as we do with all these kind of things – we'll trade it against whatever risk that might put into the program, first and foremost the risk to our crew onboard, and the station itself. From there, we start looking at the options and see what we can do as a partnership to either accommodate it or help them realize why that's a bad thing."
[...] To make life more difficult, the Russians can no longer bank on getting cash from NASA for astronaut delivery past 2017. SpaceX should be ready to start sending crew to the ISS by then and Boeing is planning flights by 2018, so the $80m per launch Roscosmos was getting will no longer be coming in.
The Trump Administration's plan to hand the International Space Station off to the private sector by 2025 probably won't work, says a government auditor. It's unlikely that any commercial companies will be able to take on the enormous costs of operating the ISS within the next six years, the auditor said.
NASA's inspector general, Paul Martin, laid out his concerns over the space station's transition during a Senate space subcommittee hearing May 16th, helmed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). During his testimony, Martin said that there's just no "sufficient business case" for space companies to take on the ISS's yearly operations costs, which are expected to reach $1.2 billion in 2024. The industries that would need the ISS, such as space tourism or space research and development, haven't panned out yet, he noted. Plus, the private space industry hasn't been very enthusiastic about using the ISS either — for research or for profit. "Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the agency's current plans," Martin said at the hearing.
Also at Ars Technica.
Related: NASA Intends to Privatize International Space Station
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Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?
Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025