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US wants to privatize International Space Station

12 February 2018

This NASA TV video grab image shows NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei (left) and Scott Tingle as they step out on a spacewalk to fix the robotic arm at the International Space Station. As the Guardian noted, since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 NASA has no means to get astronauts into space and now relies on Russian Soyuz rockets to get them to the ISS; private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin won't launch manned missions to low Earth orbit until this September at the earliest.

The administration will reportedly ask for $150 million in the 2019 fiscal year in its budget request on Monday. He also argued that it would be "one of the dumbest things" to stop funding an asset with "serious usable life ahead".

"I think all of us are open to reasonable proposals that are cost effective and that are utilizing the investments we made in a way that maximize their effectiveness".

The White House is expected to end direct funding for the orbiting station after 2024, with documents obtained by the Washington Post indicating the laboratory could end up in private hands.

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The fate of the ISS could hinge on a NASA feasibility study into whether the life of the iconic station could be extended to 2028 or beyond. The NASA document says that ending federal support of the ISS doesn't mean it will necessarily come down, as "it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements of capabilities of the ISS of a future commercial platform".

But some questioned who would want to take over the station. Kelly additionally warned that Russian Federation and China would take the lead in commercial spaceflight if the United States gave up its only long-term outpost in space.

Boeing has helped manage the ISS for more than 20 years and space station manager Mark Mulqueen warned against privatisation. Frank Slazar, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, pointed out to the Post that the global agreements the U.S. signed regarding the creation of the ISS would render making it a commercial outpost tricky.

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

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The White House will seek market analyses and development plans from the private sector to ensure a smooth transition.

Supporters fear the rumours and leaks risk deterring other nations from continuing their support for a collaborative effort that launched in 1998 and has welcomed astronauts, cosmonauts and space tourists from 17 countries.

"NASA will expand worldwide and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit", the document says.

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