WASHINGTON: The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal Nasa document obtained by The Washington Post.
“The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time – it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,” the document states. “Nasa will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”
In its budget request to be released Monday, the administration would request US$150 million in the 2019 financial year, with more in additional years, “to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS-potentially including elements of the ISS-are operational when they are needed.”
The plan to privatise the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially since the United States has spent nearly US$100 billion to build and operate it. Last week, Senator Ted Cruz said he hoped recent reports of Nasa’s decision to end funding of the station “prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.” He said the decision was the result of “numbskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget.