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Space & Astronomy

ISS could end up being privatized after 2024

By T.K. Randall
February 11, 2018 · Comment icon 11 comments

Should the International Space Station be privatized ? Image Credit: NASA
Rather than being discontinued, the International Space Station could be turned in to a commercial venture.
According to a recently released budget proposal, the manned orbital outpost may not be shut down and deorbited after the US government withdraws funding in the mid 2020s.

Instead, the possibility exists that it will be handed over to the private sector.

"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."

While privatizing it may seem like an ideal solution, it's unclear whether it would work in practice.

"It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the international agreements that the United States is involved in," said Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association.

"It's inherently always going to be an international construct that requires U.S. government involvement and multinational cooperation."

Source: Washington Post | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
For what it is worth here is my opinion on the issue. I pretty much agree with the article. I think moving towards handing over the ISS to private ownership is not a bad move, but it should not be rushed. Ending NASA's support of the ISS to quickly will reflect badly on the US with it's international partners. The Deep Space Gateway and future lnar and martian exploration is going to be highly expensive and will almost certainly require international co-operation. If the USA makes itself look unreliable this could make so future NASA endeavours more difficult. The USA may be the senior partner... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Saru 6 years ago
It just seems a tremendous waste to me to discontinue the ISS while it is still operational and in good, working condition. There are so many things that can't be achieved anywhere else and this is likely to still be the case even after the Deep Space Gateway is completed. Unless it has been badly damaged or rendered obsolete, the ISS should still be maintained IMO.
Comment icon #4 Posted by and then 6 years ago
The ISS could be used to bring more private sector funding into these efforts.  Lease or sell the station to entrepreneurs with deep pockets for private/public research that will benefit both and will help move humans further along the path to deep space manned exploration.  If we have a future, it will be out there, IMO.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
That's the eventual goal. The question is whether NASA funding is ended too soon to make this a viable proposition. The main objective of the Commercial Crew Program is to, once again, be able to launch NASA astronauts from US soil. The secondary purpose is to kick start commercial non-NASA crewed flights. It will take time for this to become commercially viable however. If the funding is ended on the ISS too soon they SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner may not have time to mature as commercial propositions. The irony is, as I see it, that privatising the ISS too soon may actually slow... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Grandpa Greenman 6 years ago
They could turn it into Hotel, the Russians seem to be on board with that.  They have already leased their side a few times to some fat cats. Even if it was turned over to privatization they are still going to have to have some kind of government oversee for safety's sake.  I think keep under control of NASA and rent time on it to private companies. 
Comment icon #7 Posted by Derek Willis 6 years ago
I am not asking this question in a negative way, but so far what commercial applications have resulted from research done on the ISS? I am not saying there are none, I just don't know what they are. Also, if anyone can provide any examples, could they also come up with some figures? I should point out that I am in no way against fundamental research that doesn't necessarily directly lead to commercial applications. For example, I am all for the research carried out at CERN, even though there is unlikely ever to be any application of the discovery of the Higgs boson. I pretty much agree with Wa... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Almighty Evan 6 years ago
Comment icon #9 Posted by Merc14 6 years ago
Hasn't the plan been to move on from ISS in 2025 for a while now?   Most of the station will be 30 years old by then and that is a lot of wear and tear so not sure how much longer habitation onboard ISS will be possible.  That said, I believe gradually turning it over to commercial entrepreneurs for a decade or so, if viable, is a great idea but we absolutely have to have the gateway in space.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
No, there have been no firm plans after 2024. The Russians were keen (as was NASA) the extend it's life until 2028. One of the problems that I see with the privatisation plan is the fact that any companies wishing to take over the running are going to be committing a lot of money for a station which may only have 3 years of life left. It would seem to make more sense for them to wait until companies like Bigelow have orbited their private space stations. De-funding the ISS may well bring about it's premature demise. We currently have a NASA which has a destination but no spacecraft to reach it... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Merc14 6 years ago
OK thanks. I agree and had the same thought.  Nothing about ISS is cheap and a commercial enterprise may want a longer term payback for the money invested.  I believe any business, or businesses more likely, would necessarily make sure to have a good idea of the condition of ISS before agreeing to take it over.  Obviously it is nearing 30 years of age but many of the modules are much younger so possibly deorbiting and replacing irreparable modules could be a way forward.  Hopefully there is more to the plan for the SLS than simply servicing a space station.  If that is all NASA is thinkin... [More]

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