At the beginning of the year we found out about the US government’s plans to stop funding the International Space Station at the end of 2024. It appears that the Trump administration is encouraging NASA to privatize the ISS.
While most people were disappointed by The White House’s decision, we haven’t received to many details from NASA. Now a recent NASA audit offers us more information about the privatization, and, by the looks of it, this operation might not be feasible.
If federal funds are cut, there are two alternatives left for the ISS in order to survive. The first option is that NASA increases commercialization, which is something that already started. For example, the alliances with companies such as Bigelow Corporation, Orbital ATK, SpaceX and Boeing could prove to be helpful. However, NASA believes that it is not likely that private companies can keep the ISS afloat “independent of significant Federal funding”.
There is also a second proposition is that NASA goes on with operating the International Space Station even after 2024, but without the funds. However, this is something that will make NASA’s missions much more difficult.
NASA has been trying to reduce the costs, but there are certain expenses which cannot be avoided, such as replacements for degraded components. According to NASA, international support is needed, and Russia is considered the most important partner as it “is the only partner capable of providing crew transport to and from the ISS”.
This year we will have the 20th anniversary of the International Space Shuttle launch into orbit, but it is hard to say if the next 20 years will bring more successful missions for the satellite. It’s hard to say whether NASA will choose to privatize the ISS or manage it on its own.