A report released by the National Academies has highlighted the uncertainty of the long-term future of the International Space Station (ISS). International partners of the ISS have only committed to operating the station through 2024, leaving NASA as the sole benefactor of the ageing station. The report urges NASA to release a post-2024 strategy that would outline the agency’s plans for the station.
The report released on December 15 is the midterm assessment of the 2011 “decadal survey on life and physical sciences research at NASA.” It identifies the need to clarify the future of the ISS as well as prompted NASA to examine possible commercial alternatives for microgravity research.
“It is essential that NASA as quickly as possible develop an International Space Station-post-2024 strategy,” stated the report. “This development factors strongly in the overall exploration strategy, space life and physical sciences research priorities, and resource allocation in terms of crew time, cargo delivery, and funding.”
In addition to requiring a post-2024 strategy, the report details that NASA needs to begin exploring and formulating strategies for future research aboard the ISS. Currently, the station has the capacity for additional research through 2018. Following that, the agency will need to either expand station facilities or begin using commercial alternatives.
March 2017 NASA Authorisation Bill
In March 2017, Congress enacted a NASA authorisation bill directing the agency to develop a transition plan for the ISS. Specifically, the bill directed NASA to develop a strategy that would shift the station “from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.”
The deadline for submission of the report was December 1, 2017. NASA has yet to submit it to Congress.
Image Credit: NASA