It’s a few days old, but the Washington Post’s Christian Davenport wrote a piece on the the International Space Station, and the future of space stations.
The space agency is confident Congress and its international partners will agree to extend the station’s life beyond 2024, when it is currently set to expire. On Friday, the Senate passed a NASA authorization bill that would extend it to 2030. But space is harsh, the station is aging and at some point it will have to come down.
What comes next, though, isn’t certain.
In case this seems similar to anyone else — yes, to those of us in the field, this is like the Space Shuttle all over again. The reason I say this is that yet again, we have an aging piece of space infrastructure, that has produced some exceptional science and space development, that needs a transition plan, but Congress keeps punting the can down the road. NASA does have a part of a plan to replace the ISS — it’s called the NextSTEP. The idea is a public-private partnership, similar to what has been done with SpaceX and Boeing, for delivering astronauts to space and the international space station.
Unfortunately, Congress has been substantially underfunding the proposal — NASA asked for $150 Million, and in the recent appropriations, Congress gave NASA $17 Million. And it doesn’t help that the Trump administration hasn’t spent a lot of time on this issue (as opposed to the returning to the moon).
All that said, there are a lot of interesting ideas out there for new commercial space stations.
To quote former deputy administrator Lori Garver on this issue
ISS won’t last forever & incentivizing the private sector to begin follow-on capabilities are needed now. This concept isn’t hard, have we learned nothing in the last 10 years?