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Trump administration plans to privatize the International Space Station

12 February 2018

The official budget request is expected to be released February 12, but in advance, The Washington Post acquired an internal NASA document that outlines the plans for the International Space Station.

"It is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform", according to the document cited by the Post on Sunday.

The US has already spent almost $100 billion on building and operating the ISS, which has some members of government a little uneasy about claims of selling it off to the highest bidder.

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Last week, Senator Ted Cruz slammed the reports, claiming he hoped they would "prove as unfounded as Bigfoot" after the amount of money spent to operate the station. Due to the delays, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the certifications are likely to "slip into" December 2019 for SpaceX and February 2020 for Boeing. Now NASA is in the process of studying the possibility to extend the service life of the station by 2028. Anyone who would take the station over would either need to understand that, or refit it for another goal - namely as a base of operations ahead of jumping out further into our solar system.

The Trump administration, which previously said that it wants to cut International Space Station funding by 2025, is apparently thinking about turning it over to the private sector. Frank Slazar, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, pointed out to the Post that the global agreements the USA signed regarding the creation of the ISS would render making it a commercial outpost tricky. "It's inherently always going to be an global construct that requires US government involvement and multinational cooperation".

As the Post notes, the station is no stranger to private industry; Boeing now operates it at a cost of $3 to $4 billion a year.

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It's not clear how putting the station in private hands would work, since the ISS is an worldwide program involving a number of other countries.

The internal NASA document has scant details over how the privatization of the station would work.

The White House is reportedly in the process of working on a transition plan and aims to stop funding the space station from 2024. The space agency awarded a 10-year, $136 million cooperative agreement to the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage non-NASA reach activities on the National Laboratory-the US section of the Space Station.

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"The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it's not built for profit-seeking", said Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, which manufactures objects for the space station using 3-D printing.

Trump administration plans to privatize the International Space Station