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posted by martyb on Friday October 05 2018, @09:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the after-$150-billion,-what's-a-few-billion-more? dept.

ISS partners show interest in station extension

NASA's partners in the International Space Station are showing a growing interest in extending the station's operations beyond 2024 regardless of NASA initiatives to end direct funding of the station around that time. During an Oct. 1 press conference at the 69th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here, representatives of three ISS partner agencies said they were open to extending the station's operations to 2028 or 2030 in order to maximize the investment they've made in the facility as a platform for research and preparation for exploration activities beyond Earth orbit.

Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, said the issue could come up at the next triennial meeting of the ministers of ESA's member nations, scheduled for late 2019. "At the ministerial meeting next year, the ministerial council, I will propose to go on with ISS as well as the lunar Gateway," he said. "I believe that we will go on." At a separate briefing Oct. 2, Woerner emphasized the use of the station as a research platform and encouraged greater commercial activities there. "I believe we should use the ISS as long as feasible," he said. "I always thought 2024 was the end, but now I learned it is 2028, and yesterday I learned it's 2030. So, I will try to convince the ESA member states that ESA should be a partner in the future." However, he noted that ESA could defer the decision on a post-2024 ISS extension until its following ministerial meeting in 2022.

Japan's JAXA and Russia's Roscosmos are also likely to participate until 2028 or 2030.

Separately, a Congressman has introduced the Leading Human Spaceflight Act, which would extend the existing authorization for operating the ISS to 2030:

In his opening statement at a House space subcommittee hearing on the past and future of NASA's space exploration efforts, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee, said he was introducing legislation called the Leading Human Spaceflight Act that he said was designed to "provide further congressional direction to NASA."

[...] The proposed extension of the ISS to 2030 in the House bill mirrors language in the Space Frontier Act introduced in the Senate in July. That bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee Aug. 1 and awaits action by the full Senate.

That's more time with which we could send BFRs to the ISS to move it, swap modules, or gently disassemble it.

Previously: Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved?
Trump Administration Plans to End Support for the ISS by 2025

Original Submission

Related Stories

Can the International Space Station be Saved? Should It be Saved? 62 comments

Although Russia has plans to detach some of its modules from the International Space Station (ISS) in order to form the basis of a new space station, the majority of the ISS may be deorbited as soon as 2024 or 2028:

Over the course of six missions, the British-born Nasa astronaut has spent more than a year in space. Foale has flown in the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, lived on the Mir space station and commanded the International Space Station (ISS). He’s carried out four space walks, totalling almost 23 hours outside in both Russian and American spacesuits. These included an epic eight-hour spacewalk to upgrade the computer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

[...] A joint enterprise between the US, Russia, the European Space Agency (Esa), Japan and Canada, the ISS has now been continuously occupied since 2000. And, over that time, has increasingly come to justify its $100bn (£75bn) cost. [...] But the station's days are numbered. Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024. This means in just six years' time, the most expensive structure ever built will be pushed out of orbit by a Progress spacecraft to disintegrate over the Pacific. And the countdown clock is ticking. "Year by year, Russia is launching the fuel to fill up the tanks of the ISS service module to enable the space station to be deorbited," says Foale. "That's the current plan – I think it's a bad plan, a massive waste of a fantastic resource."

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: 1) by khallow on Friday October 05 2018, @10:42AM (3 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 05 2018, @10:42AM (#744574) Journal
    The ISS will continue as long as the various parties are willing to do so, or until something bad happens to it. So it could be operating for the next 50 years or the next 50 minutes until a bit of space junk hits it. My take is that the real obstacles to continued operation of the ISS are going to be either sufficient destruction of the station due to accident or disrepair, or to make way for the next white elephant.
    • (Score: 2) by zocalo on Friday October 05 2018, @12:18PM (1 child)

      by zocalo (302) on Friday October 05 2018, @12:18PM (#744587)
      Sure, assuming the remaining countries can actually provide the necessary resources to so. Currently it seems to be mostly the US that is on the fence on extending ISS operations, so if they were to drop out that's going to leave the remaining countries with both a financial and crew candidate deficit they'll need to make up, while they presumably continue to use Roscosmos and contract with Space-X to get supplies and crew back and forth. Maybe they can go it alone, maybe they can't, but if not it was mostly the US that kept China out of the ISS partnership, IIRC, so the US withdrawal might allow for the Chinese to become involved if they wanted to, and India might be willing to participate as well come to that. Not sure that'll go down too well with the US Government in the current political climate though.
      UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by shrewdsheep on Friday October 05 2018, @12:46PM

        by shrewdsheep (5215) on Friday October 05 2018, @12:46PM (#744590)

        My understanding is that the main issue is the integrity of structural parts of the station. They were initially spec'ed for 2020 but upon inspection they seem to be fine to be relied upon for a bit longer. Once those have to be replaced (the core of the station) it will become very expensive. There is a google techtalk on these issues (no time to dig up the link).

    • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Friday October 05 2018, @05:24PM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Friday October 05 2018, @05:24PM (#744707) Journal

      real obstacles to continued operation of the ISS are going to be either sufficient destruction of the station...

      Drill, baby, drill!

      La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @03:20PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @03:20PM (#744643)

    Or lift external blankets of a additional MLI (multi layer insulation) to it, to make it sufficiently radiation proof to function as a lunar station. Then pushing it up there via a couple of ion drives.

    I've seen a lot of arguments that building a new station is cheaper than retrofitting the old one for lunar orbit. I seriously doubt that is the case.

    ISS Insulation is fabric, so it can be rolled and folded to fit into a variety of payload shapes. It can also be cut and fit in place. That would be true even if it was lead. And the radiators are out on the truss, so external blankets wouldn't interfere with them. So even if your talking 50 space walks, it would still be cheaper than engineering a whole new set of cans. Particularly with the Falcon 9 sending crews up in fast enough rotations to do a "watch and watch" refit schedule.

    Can the falcon 9 be used for spacewalks directly without a secondary airlock assembly? If so, they really don't even need to board. A refit crew of two guys goes up for a week, refits the station, and comes back down. The station acts as a lifeline, and continues business as normal. That would allow mission volume to build up and hopefully result in more public interest. Maybe gets some national teams to compete with each other to get some national pride involved.

    More flying, less analysis paralysis.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @08:57PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @08:57PM (#744795)

      Cheaper only matters if the point is to do something useful. A fuel depot in some lunar or halo orbit might be useful, but nobody's proposing one, and ISS definitely isn't useful as one.

      The point of NASA's currently proposed cislunar space station, LOP-G, is to give SLS something to do (construct and visit a lunar space station), i.e. it's about pork for aerospace companies, not utility. Any plan that involves NOT giving SLS something to do is a poor substitute, no matter how much cheaper it is.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @04:07PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 05 2018, @04:07PM (#744664)

    It could do anything it wants to.