Trump administration supports transition to commercially-focused space station

The rocket will arrive at the International Space Station at 12:24pm
Roscosmos TwitterThe rocket will arrive at the International Space Station at 12:24pm

15 February, 2018

A casualty of NASA's redirection of funds toward lunar exploration, however, is its direct support of the International Space Station, which the Trump administration wants to cut funding to in 2024.

In his 2019 budget for the US government, Trump on February 12 proposed to end NASA funding for the space station by 2025. Russian Federation in particular has expressed an interest in developing its own space station after the ISS, potentially using some of the modules the country's space agency, Roscosmos, plans to add to its segment of the station in the next few years.

The US President Donald Trump signed the Space Policy Directive 1 on December 11th, 2017 to send US astronauts back to the moon to prepare for a mission to Mars.

It was not clear if NASA envisions partners taking over some or all of the ISS, or if the football field-length research complex would be dropped from orbit and replaced by commercial stations.

Altogether, the budget seeks to increase NASA's budget slightly to $19.6 billion.

Air travel giant Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX are now at work on crew capsule to send US astronauts to the space station via commercial flight, according to the Post. "Keeping these advances on track, both technologically and as groundwork for establishing a commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit, is critical".

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The president proposes shifting large chunks of money from the space station, satellites studying a warming Earth and a major space telescope toward a multi-year $10.4 billion exploration plan aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in about five or six years. The ISS was pretty much finished in 2011 when Nasa's space shuttles were retired. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who flew to space in 1986, "The administration's budget for NASA is a nonstarter". The transition draft says NASA will continue to consult with its worldwide partners "to ensure consensus".

Putting $150 million toward commercial development for the space station would be a "great indication" the administration is confident in what the private sector can do, CSF executive director Tommy Sanford told CNN.

Private businesses already have a hand in operating the space station.

"It's a good place for the conversation to begin", said Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space, which uses 3D printing to build hardware for space.

And the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, said defunding the station before 2028 "would not allow sufficient time" for a private sector transition. Drug companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have used the space station to research medications. There's only two crew missions a year.

It was an historic day here in Huntsville as the Marshall Space Flight Center hosted the State of NASA Address. "NASA is called to refocus existing activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programmes and support for new public-private initiatives", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.

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