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posted by martyb on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the status-is-up-in-the-[extremely-rarified]-air dept.

NASA will operate aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, but there is no consensus on what do after that year. There is some talk of commercializing the station (and a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is already attached to the ISS):

The United States' ability to send astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s depends in part on cutting back or ending government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, the head of a congressional subcommittee that oversees NASA said Wednesday (March 22). "We ought to be aware that remaining on the ISS [after 2024] will come at a cost," U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space, said during a hearing about options and impacts for station operations beyond 2024. "Tax dollars spent on the ISS will not be spent on destinations beyond low Earth orbit, including the moon and Mars," Babin said. "What opportunities will we miss if we maintain the status quo?"

[...] [NASA Associate Administrator Bill] Gerstenmaier, who oversees NASA's human exploration programs, urged Congress to plan a smooth transition from the station to beyond-low-Earth-orbit initiatives, with an eye on preserving U.S. leadership in space, especially with China planning to launch a new space station in 2023. [...] Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration advocacy group, warned that ending the U.S.' efforts at the station too early could nix budding commercial space companies, some of which might eventually support the station's continued operation as a commercial outpost. "Applications with strong market potential are emerging," Dittmar said. "Abandoning the ISS too soon will most certainly guarantee failure."

[...] While Congress ponders the station's future, NASA should expand its partnerships with private companies, urged Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based industry association. "The NASA investment[s] in these partnerships are already paying huge dividends," Stallmer said. For example, by partnering with private companies, NASA has been able to cut its costs to fly cargo — and, soon, crew — to the station, compared with what it spent to operate its own fleet of space shuttles, which cost about $500 million per mission to fly.

Also at The Verge.


Original Submission

Related Stories

"No Sufficient Business Case" for 2025 Privatization of the ISS 12 comments

Trump's plan to privatize the ISS by 2025 probably won't work, NASA's inspector general says

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
Congress Ponders the Fate of the ISS after 2024
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?
Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025


Original Submission

Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025 37 comments

A draft budget proposal would end support for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025. The U.S. was previously committed to operating at the ISS until 2024:

The Trump administration is preparing to end support for the International Space Station program by 2025, according to a draft budget proposal reviewed by The Verge. Without the ISS, American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years with no destination in space until NASA develops new vehicles for its deep space travel plans.

The draft may change before an official budget request is released on February 12th. However, two people familiar with the matter have confirmed to The Verge that the directive will be in the final proposal. We reached out to NASA for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Also at the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Five Key Findings From 15 Years of the International Space Station
Congress Ponders the Fate of the ISS after 2024
NASA Eyeing Mini Space Station in Lunar Orbit as Stepping Stone to Mars
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Snotnose on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:28PM (5 children)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:28PM (#484087)

    Lets send all members of congress up to it, then push it into the sun.

    --
    I fondly remember the day I made sandcastles with my grandmother. Just wish I hadn't done it in the crematorium.
    • (Score: 2) by rts008 on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:58PM (1 child)

      by rts008 (3001) on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:58PM (#484098)

      And I second the motion.

      Yet I fear that is too small a net to cast, but maybe a good start.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Saturday March 25 2017, @02:29PM

        by c0lo (156) on Saturday March 25 2017, @02:29PM (#484110) Journal

        Yet I fear that is too small a net to cast, but maybe a good start.

        Dehydrated congressman meat makes less volume and weight.

        But... if you think of it... better burn the fuckers down on Earth and let the ISS live for science.
        Tell you what... make them take a trip a visit to a volcano and arrange for an "eruption" at the right moment.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @03:20PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @03:20PM (#484116)

      Lets send all members of congress up to it, then push it into the sun.

      Unfortunately that would exceed our available budget. What we have the money to do is to call a joint session of Congress and crash the ISS into the Capital building.

      • (Score: 2) by fishybell on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:50PM (1 child)

        by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:50PM (#484138)

        That won't work. Their cadillac health care will save them.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:35AM

          by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:35AM (#484958)

          Therefore, we can formally blame Obama for saving both healthcare and Cadillac.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Saturday March 25 2017, @02:20PM (5 children)

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 25 2017, @02:20PM (#484106)

    Its kinda worth pointing out that no matter how cool a Spacex Dragon is, its only 3300 kilos of cargo on the CRS contract for 12 flights for $1.6B vs a space shuttle at 16000 kilos per supposed fake $500M. The $500M is frankly a made up number. The actual program cost for the shuttle was $196B in 2011 dollars which is vaguely contemporary to the CRS contract so "close enough". There were 135 shuttle missions not all entirely successful then again not all spacex flights have been successful either.

    So lets run the math

    First the Dragon under the CRS bulk purchase contract costs $133M per flight in early 2010s dollars, whereas the shuttle cost $1451M per flight in early 2010s dollars. So yes each dragon flight is less than a tenth the cost of each shuttle flight.

    However, per kilo... $1451M / 16000 kilos is $91K/kilo on the shuttle, vs $40K/kilo on a dragon. Its only like half price.

    If you use the fake $500M spec for shuttle flights, the cost per kilo is only $30K/kilo which is cheaper than the Dragon...

    • (Score: 2) by fishybell on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:52PM

      by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:52PM (#484139)

      There were 135 shuttle missions not all entirely successful...

      Understatement of the century.

    • (Score: 2) by fishybell on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:55PM (1 child)

      by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 25 2017, @05:55PM (#484141)

      The biggest problem with a new or upgraded space station isn't price-per-kilo, but the total amount of kilos that can be moved at once.

      There really isn't anything that will put a large new module into orbit and attach it the the ISS the way the shuttle could.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @09:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @09:44PM (#484200)

        Yes, but it's not 2024 yet, either; one needs a singularly pessimistic view to think Falcon Heavy won't be flying by then, with nearly double the space shuttle's capacity to LEO (54.4 t vs. 27.5 t, per wikipedia); as for attaching it to ISS, the station has its own Canadarm, so you don't need that capability on your launch vehicle. (And if you're launching new space stations instead of upgrading/expanding ISS, well, include the Canadarm or equivalent with either the first or second module launched.)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @06:26PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @06:26PM (#484151)

      How the fuck do they expect to assemble the vessel we'd be sending to Mars?

      I'm not sure if the ISS is in the best orbit for this or not, but since it is already 'sunk costs' for getting something into orbit, wouldn't it be best to either make use of the ISS as an assembly point for any future moon/mars manned base/lander projects and/or use tugs to reorient it in orbit if the ideal orbit is somewhere else, rather than spending another 5-10 years building, launching and reassembling new modules to put up another assembly station somewhere else in earth orbit? We're talking tens to hundreds of thousands of kilos of material, plus accompanying fuel storage/supplies that will need to be brought into orbit, secured, assembled, then launched. If we're not doing it from the ISS, where do they THINK we'll be doing it from?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @09:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @09:55PM (#484204)

        No, the ISS is in a terrible orbit, and on top of that is designed as a science station, not a shipyard. Moving it to a sane orbit will not be cheap, even if you somehow got Russia to agree, and it stilli wouldn't be a shipyard.

        So you can spend your "5-10 years" upgrade ISS with propellant storage, extra/mobile canadarms, and who knows what else -- or you can just put up a new space station, designed for the purpose, in a low inclination orbit, high enough to require less boosting (a better use of the delta-v every non-Russian ISS mission currently wastes on plane changes), and be happy.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @06:17PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @06:17PM (#484147)

    big habitable space filled with food and supplies even as a slow boat tryp it would be good humans arrive and goodies await.

    • (Score: 1) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Saturday March 25 2017, @07:02PM (5 children)

      by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Saturday March 25 2017, @07:02PM (#484161)

      I thought we discussed that idea before, and decided it would probably fall apart if we tried that.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @10:02PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25 2017, @10:02PM (#484206)

        Depends how fast you want it to go -- I think we wound up with the choice of falling apart from acceleration stresses, or going through the Van Allen belts so slow it cooks the crew.

        But that's okay, because once you clear Earth's magnetosphere they're all doomed anyway.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday March 26 2017, @12:37PM (3 children)

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 26 2017, @12:37PM (#484344)

        It would "work" but its high maintenance so what gets there won't work, and the thermal design is for one hemisphere of toasty earth and one hemisphere of cold space so tossing it into space is unlikely to work well while its in space and orbiting cold dark mars will be cold (although probably workable) and dark means less solar.

        I think you might be unhappily surprised by the boost engine performance where the boost engine is known not to blow the solar panels off the station so its "safe" to operate. Because the total amount of boost depends on lots of handwaving, you won't see anything more precise than "several meters/sec per month" required. If I did the math right low earth orbit to low mars orbit is 6100+ m/s for an ideal Hohmann orbit, which this won't be, so if we figure 100 m/s per month is reasonable given continuous resupply rockets and spare parts and maintenance and do it all by robots because there's no radiation protection and the thermal system is going to be all messed up, that's like 60 months minimum of roughly monthly supply ships to keep the engine tanks full (maybe less).

        I know a low thrust transfer would take more total delta-v than a hohmann. Earth orbit speed is 30 km/s and mars is 24 km/s so superficially that looks lower however you need the additional equivalent of escape to low orbit at both ends, insert massive handwaving its about 3 to 4 km/s on each side so a low thrust would be 13000 or so m/s total delta v as a massive handwaving exercise, I'd be surprised if thats more than 2 km/s off from the actual value. So "eh 130 months"

        A problem with the low rate boost system will really mess up the mission because mars won't be there when the station gets there. So you can't budget running the engine 24x7 aside from lack of propellant if there's the slightest hiccup you got problems. So thats why I'm wimping out and designing in only 100 m/s per month of boost.

        At any rate somewhere between 5 and 15 years as extreme guesses is too long. What arrives won't work even if carefully packed.

        I think conceptually the ISS isn't built for mars anyway. Too much stuff on the design criteria of "well, too bad about the station, everyone in the lifeboat capsules and we'll be on a random earth location in less than 2 hours or back home is less than a day or so if we can wait in the capsule". If you want a million pounds of spare parts, a million pounds of actual custom designed designated spare parts in a high thrust fast transfer orbit would be infinitely more useful.

        The way to avoid radiation exposure to humans is either to move an entire freaking asteroid with 50 feet of solid rock protecting the biologicals, which is going to be low thrust generational type ship, but very comfortable, or closest approach is under 80 million KM which sounds rough but lets say you got 120 KM/sec of nuclear delta V in your star trek shuttle which is 60 KM/sec on each side, at 60 KM/sec thats two weeks to mars. Now put solar observatory thingies around the sun which we already partially have, and do some careful scheduling, its quite survivable... most if the time. The best way is the crazy string of pearls design inspired by the Silk Road on earth where you have stations every days worth of march or so, in other words you're never more than a days travel from a known shelter. This works interplanetary also. Anyway there are interesting ideal solutions to explore almost none of which involve shipping the ISS out to mars.

        If we're going to do a heroic in orbit burn I'd like to see the ISS inclination dropped to zero, which could be useful for other tasks and is so difficult and expensive that it'll cure any desire to try something of even higher deltaV like going to mars or whatever.

        • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday March 27 2017, @06:06PM (2 children)

          by bob_super (1357) on Monday March 27 2017, @06:06PM (#484751)

          We should at least boost the ISS so high that it stays up there until someone in a few decades decides they can find some use for it. We can attach a few external instruments to it, and come service them, even if humans don't live inside permanently.
          That'd be smarter than just letting it fall down.

          I've already said that slow-boating it via ion drive to a moon orbit might turn out useful down the road.
          Sure, it's not designed for it and may just fail, but if it was built with just enough overkill, spending a bit of cash to try to reuse even part of it, is better than watching >$100000000000 fireworks then restarting from scratch. Some of the modules are pretty new.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 27 2017, @07:09PM (1 child)

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 27 2017, @07:09PM (#484791)

            Some of the modules are pretty new.

            One very stereotypically NASA problem is the latency to spin up a program is longer than the lifespan of a lot of hardware in space, which is crazy but true. So if it were boosted into higher orbit unfortunately by the time we get around to using it, that stuff is going to be really old.

            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:32AM

              by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:32AM (#484956)

              I'll still take one huge old chunk of metal potentially tumbling erratically in high orbit, over a cute splash in the ocean.
              I don't own satellites, obviously.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 26 2017, @07:35AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 26 2017, @07:35AM (#484293)

    ...with a sign in big, gold letters.

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