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NASA wrestles with what to do with International Space Station after 2024
May 20, 2018 Stephen Clark

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s human exploration and operations directorate (left), and Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general (right), testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness on May 16. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Lawmakers last week questioned the Trump administration’s proposal to end direct U.S. government support of the International Space Station in 2025, citing concerns about the economic viability of commercial outposts in low Earth orbit.

In a pair of hearings before Senate and House panels, NASA’s manager in charge of human spaceflight activities, the agency’s inspector general, and independent experts testified on the future of the International Space Station, and the White House’s plans to discontinue government funding of the orbiting research laboratory.

It has been NASA’s goal since the Obama administration to eventually turn over human spaceflight operations in low Earth orbit, a region a few hundred miles in altitude, to commercial companies, freeing up federal funding to pay for expeditions deeper into space.

The Trump administration in February proposed ending direct U.S. government support of the space station in 2025, prompting debate and discussion over whether commercial industry can make a business of building and operating orbiting research facilities staffed by astronauts.

There are numerous unanswered questions facing lawmakers, NASA officials and entrepreneurs studying the issue.

What is the commercial demand for an orbiting laboratory? Can a commercial operator maintain a space station in low Earth orbit without substantial financial support from the government?

What are NASA’s needs for research in low Earth orbit, as the space agency turns its sights toward the moon and Mars? Will China’s planned space station eat into the market for a commercial research complex in orbit? What do the International Space Station’s other partners think about the plan to privatize human space operations in low Earth orbit?

And there are other questions under consideration, such as how much it will cost to transport humans and cargo between Earth and an orbiting space station in the late 2020s.

Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general, told the Senate’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness on Wednesday that it is unlikely a commercial operator could wholly take over the space station’s annual budget by 2025.

“Based on our work, we question whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies can create a self-sustaining and profit-making business using the ISS, independent of significant government funding, Martin said. “From our perspective, it is unlikely that a private entity or entities would assume the station’s annual operating costs, currently projected at $1.2 billion in 2024.

“Such a business case requires robust demand for commercial market activities,” Martin added. “Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the station over its nearly 20 years of operation give us pause about the agency’s current plans.”

Expedition 55 flight engineer Ricky Arnold works with an experiment on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Two senators expressed their opposition to the station’s privatization during Wednesday’s hearing.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the Trump administration’s proposal to end federal funding for the space station in 2025 “deeply troubling.”

“Nowhere in federal statute is there a request from Congress seeking a hard deadline to end federal support for ISS, to cross our fingers and hope for the best,” said Cruz, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA. “We’ve seen that act play out too many times in our national space program, and it’s time we learn the lessons of history. Prematurely canceling a program for political reasons costs jobs and wastes billions of dollars.”

The subcommittee’s ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, agreed with Cruz.

“Abandoning this incredible orbiting laboratory where they are doing research, when we are on the cusp of a new era of space exploration, would be irresponsible at best, and probably disastrous,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the White House’s proposal to end federal funding of the space station in 2025 was a “random date.”

“So it was a political decision, and as far as this committee is concerned — and I can tell you as far as this senator is concerned — that proposal is dead on arrival,” Nelson said.

“It’s not fair to NASA or to industry to force a transition based on an arbitrary date,” Nelson said. “That decision should be based on factors like NASA’s research requirements and the readiness of industry to take the lead. We need to listen to our scientists and the experts at NASA.”

“We didn’t see the necessity of picking a specific date within the agency, but as part of the administration, we came to the conclusion that picking a date would prompt a serious discussion,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

Cruz and Nelson said they agreed on the importance of maintaining support for the space station.

“As long as I am chairman of this subcommittee, the ISS will continue to have strong support — strong bipartisan support — in the United States Congress,” Cruz said.

NASA and its partners have spent more than $100 billion designing, building and operating the space station over three decades. The research facility costs between $3 billion and $4 billion per year to operate, a budget that includes costs for cargo and crew transportation.

Following the privatization model used in cargo and crew transportation after the space shuttle’s retirement, NASA wants to commercialize human spaceflight operations in low Earth orbit in hopes of easing costs and freeing up government funding for deep space missions.

Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing technology for a commercial space station, has proposed installing a large commercial expandable habitat on the International Space Station as a follow-up to ongoing experiments with a smaller module. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

NASA plans to construct a mini-space station in orbit around the moon in the 2020s for use as a research platform to gain experience with long-duration crew stays farther away from Earth. The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway could also be a staging point for landers carrying experiments and astronauts to and from the moon’s surface.

Gerstenmaier said NASA does not intend to give up on human spaceflight in low Earth orbit, but that the agency aims to be one of multiple customers for a potential commercial space station — either a privatized ISS or a new privately-developed platform.

He identified the development of new pharmaceutical drugs and in-space manufacturing as two potential commercial applications for an orbiting space station.

“To be clear, NASA is not abandoning low Earth orbit,” Gerstenmaier said. “We must ensure the right pieces are in place to maintain an operational human preseence in low Earth orbit, whether through a modified ISS program, commercial platforms, or some combination of both.”

A recent audit concluded that NASA will not be able to complete research aboard the International Space Station into the human health risks of long-duration spaceflight, or finish developing new technologies to enable lengthy crewed missions to the moon and Mars, by the end of 2024, according to Martin, the agency’s inspector general.

NASA released a solicitation Thursday asking U.S. companies and research institutions for studies examining the market for a commercial space station in low Earth orbit, detailed business plans, and concepts for orbiting human research outposts. Organizations selected by NASA later this summer will receive up to $1 million each for their studies.

NASA is also asking companies for concepts that may include the attachment of commercial habitats or labs to the forward end of the International Space Station’s Harmony module.

But Martin said the agency must find a way to reduce its expenditures on low Earth orbit human spaceflight programs if it hopes to pay for crewed missions to the moon’s vicinity, and eventually the lunar surface.

“Any assumption that ending direct federal funding (of the International Space Station) frees up $3 to $4 billion beginning in 2025 to use on other NASA exploration initiatives is wishful thinking,” Martin said. “That said, unless the agency receives a substantial increase in funding or can dramatically reduce costs, it will be hard-pressed to continue supporting ISS operations under its current model while attempting to fund other initiatives such as the lunar gateway … a moon landing, and a crewed Mars mission.”

Gerstenmaier said he believes a relatively flat budget, adjusted for inflation and economic growth, could simultaneously support a somewhat reduced low Earth orbit human spaceflight program and NASA’s deep space exploration initiatives.

He said the International Space Station, which has modules originally designed for a 15-year lifetime, could be operated safely through at least 2028, the 30-year anniversary of the launch of the facility’s first elements.

“I think we have a good operational life at least through 2028, and possibly a little bit further beyond that,” Gerstenmaier said. “We just need to continue to watch station, continue to maintain it.

“What we don’t want to have happen is where we’re spending more time doing maintenance than we are doing research,” he said. “At that point, then the utility of station starts to diminish. We have not seen that. Station is very viable at least through 2028.”

In a separate hearing Thursday before the House Science Committee, lawmakers heard testimony from Bhavya Lal, who helped lead a study investigating the viability of a commercially-operated space station at the Institute for Defense Analyses’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.

“This transition (to a commercial space station) can occur in two primary ways,” she said. “The ISS could be privatized, as in all or parts of it could be taken over by a private entity and operated on behalf of the government, much like most DOE (Department of Energy) labs are today. Alternatively, a private sector entity could build, launch and operate a commercial low Earth Orbit based platform for profit.”

Bhavya Lal, a researcher at the Institute for Defense Analyses’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, testifies during a House Science Committee hearing on May 17. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Lal’s team looked at two different space station configurations, and they assumed that launch prices in 2025 would be reduced by 50 to 75 percent from today’s prices, a prospective price cut she described as an “aggressive assumption.”

“In three of the four scenarios we postulated, revenues did not cover costs,” she said. “Venture capitalists we spoke to indicated that projected revneue streams are too far in the future and too uncertain to warrant making significant investments today. Overall, our analysis showed that it is unlikely the a commercial space station would be economically viable by 2025.”

Lal agreed with Gerstenmaier and Martin that an extension of the space station’s lifetime through 2028 — with operating costs similar to today’s — would take money away from deep space exploration and delay the return of astronauts to the moon.

“It may also take away opportunities from a rapidly burgeoning private sector that feels ready to lead acitvities in LEO,” Lal said.

“The ISS or modules within it could be privatized with a private sector entity operating the station, but paid for largely by the government,” she said. “Depending on how the deal is structured, this could, in principle, yield cost savings, although this cannot be assumed.

“NASA could select a private entity to operate a commercial platform and grant space or request services as a tenant,” Lal said. “While this option is best suited to help LEO commercialization, it will likely require some level of a government subsidy for the commercial operator. In our analysis, an annualized payment of about $2 billion could cover the cost of the platform, even in a case of zero revenues.”

Gerstenmaier said NASA will take the information from the commercial studies to be conducted later this year to help plan the future of the International Space Station.

“We need to see what comes from industry and see what’s reasonable, and then do the budget analysis.”

Once NASA decides to retire and decommission the space station, the complex will be de-orbited over the Pacific Ocean, and most it will burn up during re-entry.

One company that has long planned to develop a commercial space station is Bigelow Aerospace, founded by Robert Bigelow, a billionaire who made his fortune in real estate.

Bigelow announced in February the formation of a subsidiary named Bigelow Space Operations that will manage sales, operations and customer service for Bigelow Aerospace’s space stations. Bigelow has an experimental expandable module currently attached to the International Space Station, the company says it plans to launch two larger expandable modules in 2021.

In a statement accompanying the announcement, Bigelow said the new sales firm will spend “missions of dollars this year” to probe the market for a commercial space station.

“The time is now to quantify in detail the global, national and corporate commercial space market for orbiting stations,” the Bigelow statement said. “This subject has had ambiguity for many years.”

Source: NASA wrestles with what to do with International Space Station after 2024

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #1 dnia: Czerwiec 09, 2018, 20:07 »
Senators reiterate opposition to ISS transition proposal
by Jeff Foust — June 6, 2018

Witnesses at a June 6 Senate hearing said uncertainty about the future of the ISS after 2025 is already starting to deter some companies and scientists who had been interested in using it. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate space subcommittee used a June 6 hearing to once again express opposition to the administration’s proposal to end NASA funding of the International Space Station in 2025.

In the second in a series of hearings on the future of the ISS, witnesses from industry and other organizations said either transitioning the ISS to commercial operators, or shifting to new commercial space stations, may not be feasible by that time, and that even consideration of the proposal may scare away potential station users.

“We understand that commercialization is imminent, and we are fully supporting this process. However, to achieve this goal, enough time must be given both for a smooth transition and for the nation to realize a return on investment,” said Cynthia Bouthot, director of commercial innovation and sponsored programs at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which operates the portion of the ISS designated a national laboratory.

Bouthot said setting a 2025 date for ending NASA funding of the ISS, and potential the station as a whole, is starting to concern researchers. “We’ve already had anecdotal evidence of companies that we’re working with to try to get to the station hesitate once that 2025 date was announced,” she said.

On the heels of a Washington Post report where NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency was in discussions with several companies about taking over the station, an executive with one major aerospace company expressed skepticism that the ISS itself could be operated profitably.

Jim Chilton, senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing, said at the hearing that it costs NASA about $3.2 billion a year to operate the U.S. segment of the ISS. That includes $1.8 billion in cargo and crew transportation costs, $1.1 billion in operations of the station itself and $300 million for research. By contrast, commercial activities at the station today produce only about $100 million in revenue. “That’s a big gap,” he said.

Bob Mitchell, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, was skeptical cost savings that would be created by ending funding of the ISS would provide significant additional resources for NASA’s deep space exploration efforts. “Commercial alternatives would likely cost significantly more to sustain than the ISS, creating an entirely new development program while providing a fraction of the existing capability,” he said.

One of those companies planning commercial space stations is Axiom Space. Michael Suffredini, the president and chief executive of the company and a former NASA ISS program manager, said NASA should approach any transition to commercial space stations carefully. “One concept must remain inviolable: the United States must not relinquish uninterrupted access to LEO for its astronauts,” he said.

He did press NASA, though, to accelerate efforts to bring on commercial modules to the ISS. In 2016, NASA issued a request for information from companies interested in using a docking port on the station. The agency has yet to follow up that request with a competition and is now instead seeking proposals for LEO commercial market studies.

“NASA must allow companies to compete for the right to attach one or more modules to the ISS as soon as possible,” he said. That competition, he said, should take place in parallel with the commercialization studies, and not wait until after the studies are completed at the end of this year.

Senators at the hearing made it clear even before the witnesses testified that they remained opposed to ending NASA funding of the ISS by 2025, particularly since it has the technical ability to operate through at least 2028. “It is my firm belief that it would be irresponsible for the United States government to prematurely end the life of the International Space Station before maximizing American taxpayer investment,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee.

Cruz had previously criticized the proposal, as had Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the full Senate Commerce Committee. “Why in the world would you want to take a large, multi-year investment of $100 billion and suddenly deorbit it and let it burn up on reentry?” Nelson asked.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), ranking member of the space subcommittee, did not participate in last month’s hearing on the ISS, but appeared in lockstep with his colleagues at this hearing. “We simply cannot pull the plug on the International Space Station without a plan in place for what comes next,” he said.

A conversation “on steroids”

A few hours before the hearing, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine met with reporters at NASA Headquarters. One of the topics he addressed was the future of the ISS and any transition to commercial operations of the station, or commercial space stations.

“There are companies that are interested in managing the ISS from a commercial perspective. That exists right now, and that existed before I got to NASA,” he said. The issue, he said, is what circumstances would allow those companies to close their business plans by operating the ISS, or some elements of it.

“No decisions have been made” about the station’s future, he emphasized. “There’s a range of options here. What the president’s budget request did is it has started this conversation, and kind of put it on steroids.”

One big issue for any ISS transition, he said, is to avoid any gap in human activity to low Earth orbit. “We saw what happened with the space shuttles,” he said. “We don’t want that to happen with low Earth orbit.”

The other major issue, he said, is figuring out how much NASA wants to spend on activities in LEO after the end of the ISS, and how much commercial activities can cover the costs of such activities. “There are opportunities here for us to look at options, a range of options, that ultimately enable us to go further, which is the objective,” he said.

Any decision on the future of the ISS, he said, will be done in consultation with the other countries involved on the station, discussions that are already underway. “Nothing will be done outside of the consent and advice of our international partners.”

Source: Senators reiterate opposition to ISS transition proposal

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #2 dnia: Czerwiec 09, 2018, 23:17 »
Może nie starczyć kasy na to żeby jednocześnie budować DSG, i utrzymywać przy życiu ISS.

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #3 dnia: Lipiec 09, 2018, 18:52 »
Trump wants NASA out of the ISS operations business. Easier said than done.
by Debra Werner — July 5, 2018

Expedition 56 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA in the Destiny laboratory module June 11 with gear for measuring and analyzing red blood cell function to help doctors understand how blood cell production is altered in microgravity. Credit: NASA Johnson via Flickr

This article originally appeared in the June 25, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

Since President Trump’s 2019 budget called for ending International Space Station funding in 2025, Congress held hearings, NASA published an ISS Transition Report and U.S. companies advertised plans for new outposts. Still, it’s not clear how that transition will occur, a fact highlighted by the recent confusion over NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s comments to The Washington Post about companies taking over ISS operations. For clues on the space station’s current status and the transition ahead, SpaceNews spoke with Sam Scimemi, ISS director at NASA headquarters.

Sam Scimemi, Director of NASA’s International Space Station Division. Credit: NASA via Flickr

ISS was built over many years. Are there parts of the structure that require more maintenance and other parts that require less?

We are getting a lot of good run time on all our systems. Our electrical power systems have generally performed quite well and are performing beyond their mean time between failures. Some of our life support systems have had not as much luck. However, other parts of our life support systems like the oxygen generation system has pretty much performed as it was designed. Some parts are doing better than expected other parts are not doing as well as expected.

It is all certified through 2024 at least. We’ve been working with international partners to have everything certified all the way to 2028. It doesn’t mean every single nut and bolt is certified that way. A lot of systems can be replaced along the way. Not everything was designed to last that long.

People talk about dismantling ISS and keeping pieces of it? Is that possible?

It’s certainly possible. Some people have been looking at that. We have not looked at a specific configuration. But if you’ve followed the assembly, we’ve reconfigured station many times. Some elements weren’t launched until 2009, 2010, 2011. You add 30 years to that and some parts of station could last all the way to the year 2040. There will be a lot of life left in any of these elements in the next decade.

This is called out in the ISS Transition Report. We talk about possible futures in low Earth orbit (LEO): continue station the way it is; continue station with private industry elements; reconfigure station with private-industry elements along with elements that already exist or new free flight elements. All those things are open right now.

Is it important to NASA to ensure there’s no gap in human presence in LEO?

Have you read the ISS Transition Report? We have several principles for ISS transition in LEO. One is continuity in human spaceflight. It means we have continuity in our mission. We expect to have continual access to LEO. But for deep space, if we go to the moon, we don’t expect to have access all that often, maybe once a year. Having a human spaceflight program only once a year is probably not a sustainable thing based on NASA’s requirements and the requirements of all of our international partners on station. We think the leadership aspect is important for the continuity, not only for the mission but also for the industrial base, having an industrial base that is able to build rockets, build crew capsules, cargo vehicles, on-orbit spacecraft. It’s important that we also keep continuity in our industrial base and knowledge here on the ground in order to continue spaceflight across multiple decades.

What else should people know about the transition from ISS to something else in LEO whether it happens in 2024, 2028 or some other time?

There are many different futures possible. What’s important to NASA and the U.S. government are: the continuity of human spaceflight, leadership of the United States in human spaceflight not only in LEO but also for exploration, long-term research and astronaut opportunities. Reducing cost is also important. We will pursue that with these public private partnerships, for instance. All those are important to us. They all stem from the first two: continuity of human spaceflight and the leadership in human spaceflight.

The Bigelow Beam module was deployed on ISS in 2016. How has that turned out?

The original agreement was for expanding it, making sure it worked and two years of collecting data, measuring the radiation environment and the microbe environment and atmospheric environment, the outgas and those things. Then we modified the agreement with Bigelow to use it as a storage closet, a place for the astronauts to put things in. It’s worked out well.

At the Space Symposium, companies presented plans for private space stations. They discussed having several platforms in LEO. Do you envision that?

It is easy to envision the supply. We have in this country more supply than customers. What really needs to be worked on is the development of the demand. Where is all this demand coming from? Is the demand still just NASA? A large part of what we do with the National Lab and CASIS is try to build the demand on the research and technology development side to have customers for all this supply. I understand some of these companies also want to fly tourists. That’s also addressed in the report. In order to sustain this industry, look at the transportation side, $1.7 million, that is going to be hard to maintain just on a tourist’s budget. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done but it may take a little more time for the cost of transportation to come down quite a bit so people’s business models match their expectations.

Is the cost of transportation coming down?

For crew it is probably too early for that. Commercial crew hasn’t even flown yet. On our side it is a little bit premature to have a definitive trend yet.

Once there is more demand, would that lead to lower cost transportation?

That is the theory of free market principles. In human spaceflight it is not truly an open market. It is mostly government-sponsored. Both here in this country and in Russia and China. It is a constrained market. If a U.S. company comes up with a crew seat price, if China or Russia wants that business, since they are government organizations, they will probably just undercut that price. Not to say that they would but that is how things work in the real world. When we talk about ISS transition and our leadership position, those considerations will have to be factored in.

You’ve said ISS is hitting its stride. How so?

Beginning last year, we started to see a real interest in utilizing ISS from private industry like big pharmaceutical companies, consumer products companies and especially other government agencies like the National Institutes of Health. They have ramped up their utilization of ISS. On the NASA side, for our exploration research program, we are starting to knock out some of the risks in human spaceflight, like bone and muscle loss mitigation strategies. Those risks are starting to come down now as we work through all that research. And we are starting to fly some of our life support technology systems for testing. That will be coming online in the next few years as well. We are hitting all cylinders.

You’ve also said ISS hasn’t reached its full potential. What more could be done?

On the exploration side, there is still more work to be done at integrating across all of our disciplines, across operations, across system demonstrations, across human health and performance, integrating all of those together in a simulation of a long-duration deep space exploration activity on ISS. On the other side, there is still room for growth on the National Lab side on external users. There is still a lot of growth left in that area as far as volume.

There’s a Washington Post article about NASA talking with a commercial consortium about taking over ISS operations. What does that mean?

Our intention is to be able to turn over day-to-day operations of the ISS to private industry by the middle of the next decade. Within that, there could be partnerships between companies that actually operate the ISS based on a particular business plan that they all have.

As far as NASA’s direct plan, our plan is to turn over the day-to-day operations to private industry to be able to operate modules in space, to be able to do all the planning, training, real-time operations, sustainment, engineering. NASA could be just one of many customers for LEO.

What does it cost to maintain the space station annually?

Its budget is separated into operations, use or research and transportation. The transportation is the largest part of the ISS budget. It is just over half of the budget. The budget this year was about $1.7 billion just for transportation, cargo and crew. The other part of it is operations and utilization.

I have a hard time imaging any industry consortium paying the cost of ISS operations and maintenance. Would an industry consortium have to do that?

NASA plans to pay for what we want in LEO. We are going to pay for our research, pay for our astronaut training, pay for having astronauts in orbit. We’ll pay for all the things that are important to NASA, including international partnerships. We are encouraging private industry to go find other long-term customers for the ISS or for other platforms.

I understand private operations would cost less but there are astronauts onboard. It seems risky to turn over ISS operations.

This transition is going to take place over many years. We are not going to throw one big switch and all the sudden NASA civil servants aren’t working and it’s all private industry. 2025 is several years from now. We have plenty of time and our industrial base has got much more experience than it used to have. Before, we had only a small number of companies that knew anything about spaceflight. Now, it’s a lot larger number with a lot of new entrants.

Our intention is to build up the knowledge base and the industrial base so private industry could take over large parts of what NASA does. That doesn’t mean NASA just walks away. In the International Space Station Transition Report, we talk about only transitioning those things that make sense. We are only going to transition the things industry, NASA and our stakeholders are comfortable transitioning.

Some things we are probably not going to transition like crew health and safety. We probably are not going to transition our life support system work or [extravehicular activities]. We’ll keep that in the government. Of course, we have yet to work through what all those things are.

Source: Trump wants NASA out of the ISS operations business. Easier said than done.

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #4 dnia: Sierpień 07, 2018, 00:08 »
NASA Inspector General skeptical of ISS commercialization plans
by Jeff Foust — July 31, 2018

A new report by NASA's Office of Inspector General is skeptical that NASA can hand over the ISS to the private sector by 2025 and free up funding for use on exploration programs. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — A new report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General raises doubts about the feasibility of NASA’s plans to transfer ISS operations to the private sector in 2025.

In a report published July 30, the office also warned that NASA’s research goals may not be completed by 2024 as expected, requiring additional time on the ISS or another facility in order to meet the agency’s deep space exploration requirements.

The report was skeptical of plans, announced in the agency’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal in February and a transition report submitted to Congress in March, to end direct federal funding of ISS operations in 2025, transferring all or part of it to the private sector in a bid to save money and support the commercialization of low Earth orbit.

“Based on our audit work, we question the viability of NASA’s plans as outlined in its ISS Transition Report, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit on the timetable proposed,” the report states.

The report adds that NASA’s transition report “includes several overly optimistic assumptions related to revenues and costs of operating a future private low Earth orbit platform that call into question the validity of the analysis.” For example, the report assumes cargo transportation at a cost of $20,000 a kilogram, while NASA’s current Commercial Resupply Services contracts with Northrop Grumman and SpaceX charge about three times as much.

The report also notes that the “scant” level of commercial activity on the ISS throughout the station’s history raises additional skepticism about the viability of a commercially operated station by the mid-2020s.

The report is not the first time the agency’s inspector general has raised doubts about NASA’s ISS commercialization plans. “We question whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies can create a self-sustaining and profit-making business using the ISS independent of significant government funding,” Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general, said at a May hearing by the Senate’s space subcommittee on the future of the ISS.

The report also noted that NASA may find it difficult to complete some its human health research and technology development projects by 2025. The agency said at least eight human health risks for future long-duration missions will need testing through 2024 or beyond, in some cases extending out through 2027. Several technology development efforts may also need one or two years of additional work on ISS.

As part of that research, the report endorsed the flight of more one-year missions, similar to the one flown by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko in 2015–2016. NASA researchers, the report stated, identified “as many as 11 human health risks would benefit from these additional one‐year missions because they would provide more data than standard 6‐month ISS missions on how spaceflight impacts the human body over extended periods of time.” NASA accepted a recommendation to study such additional one-year missions in a response included in the report.

One solution to both the commercialization concerns and the research needs would be to extend the ISS beyond the mid-2020s. Engineering analyses have concluded that the ISS can be operated safety through at least 2028, the report stated.

Any extension, though, would come at a price, namely the $3–4 billion a year that NASA currently spends on ISS operations that the agency had hoped to redirect towards exploration programs, such as missions to the moon and ultimately Mars. “As a result, NASA managers will face significant challenges operating the ISS under its current model while attempting to fund NASA’s other potential space exploration initiatives such as the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a lunar orbit/landing, and preparations for a crewed Mars mission,” the report concluded.

However, even if the ISS ended in 2025, the office argued that NASA would not be able to apply that full funding to other programs. “Specifically, even with termination of most Station activities, NASA would still be required to pay for any remaining Agency activities in low Earth orbit including any crew and cargo transportation services – projected to cost $1.8 billion in 2024,” it stated.

The report comes as a Senate committee prepares to take up a bill that would extend ISS operations. The Space Frontier Act, S. 3277, includes language amending previous NASA authorization acts to extend the life of the ISS from 2024 to 2030. The bill, introduced last week by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), will be marked up by the Senate Commerce Committee Aug. 1.

Source: NASA Inspector General skeptical of ISS commercialization plans

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #5 dnia: Październik 03, 2018, 23:02 »
ISS partners show interest in station extension
by Jeff Foust — October 2, 2018 [SN]

International Space Station as seen from Space Shuttle Atlantis in this July 2011 photograph. Credit: NASA
Officials from ESA, JAXA and Roscosmos showed an interest in extending the ISS beyond 2024, perhaps to 2030, even as NASA seeks to end direct federal funding of the station in 2025. Credit: NASA

BREMEN, Germany — NASA’s partners in the International Space Station are showing a growing interest in extending the station’s operations beyond 2024 regardless of NASA initiatives to end direct funding of the station around that time.

During an Oct. 1 press conference at the 69th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here, representatives of three ISS partner agencies said they were open to extending the station’s operations to 2028 or 2030 in order to maximize the investment they’ve made in the facility as a platform for research and preparation for exploration activities beyond Earth orbit.

Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, said the issue could come up at the next triennial meeting of the ministers of ESA’s member nations, scheduled for late 2019. “At the ministerial meeting next year, the ministerial council, I will propose to go on with ISS as well as the lunar Gateway,” he said. “I believe that we will go on.”

At a separate briefing Oct. 2, Woerner emphasized the use of the station as a research platform and encouraged greater commercial activities there. “I believe we should use the ISS as long as feasible,” he said. “I always thought 2024 was the end, but now I learned it is 2028, and yesterday I learned it’s 2030. So, I will try to convince the ESA member states that ESA should be a partner in the future.” However, he noted that ESA could defer the decision on a post-2024 ISS extension until its following ministerial meeting in 2022.

Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japanese space agency JAXA, also emphasized the importance of making the most of the station. “I’d like to make the most of the present ISS,” he said. “We have to maximize the output of the ISS. Whenever the deadline comes to the ISS, we would like to participate in the ISS and maximize output.”

He added, though, that there was not a pressing need for Japan to decide on an ISS extension. “JAXA is requesting budgets annually, so I think in that sense JAXA is quite flexible.”

Dmitry Loskutov, head of international relations at the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said Russia already expected an extension. “We anticipate the continued functioning until 2028 or 2030,” he said.

That extension, he said, would be a subject of upcoming discussions between Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine when they meet at the Baikonur Cosmodrome around the Oct. 11 launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the station. It will also come up at a conference in Moscow in November marking the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first ISS segment, Zarya, attended by the ISS partners.

Evgeny Mikrin, general designer at RSC Energia, also endorsed an ISS extension. “I think we really should continue ISS utilization up until 2030” to maximize its utilization, he said, speaking through an interpreter during an IAC panel discussion Oct. 1. He stated that Russia still planned to launch three modules to its segment of the ISS in the coming years to expand its capabilities.

Bridenstine, at the heads-of-agencies press conference Oct. 1, alluded to legislation introduced in both the House and Senate that contain provisions to authorize an extension of the ISS until 2030. That language stems from congressional criticism to plans by NASA in its 2019 budget proposal to end direct ISS funding in 2025 as part of an initiative to enhance commercialization of low Earth orbit.

“The vision that we have for low Earth orbit in general is a vision for commercialization,” Bridenstine said, with the private sector eventually taking over operations of space stations or similar facilities in LEO and with NASA as one of potentially many customers.

“The president’s budget request was very clear that we would end direct funding for the ISS in 2025. To be clear, that doesn’t mean the ISS will be over,” he said, citing as one option an international consortium of companies taking over the station. “But it is also true that while I do support the commercialization of low Earth orbit, Congress doesn’t always agree with me and Congress doesn’t always agree with the president, so what gets put into law could be very different from what our objectives are.”

Source: ISS partners show interest in station extension

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #6 dnia: Październik 13, 2018, 15:54 »
Izba reprezentantów popiera plany wydłużenia finansowania ISS

Międzynarodowa Stacja Kosmiczna / Źródło: NASA/ESA

Na posiedzeniu podkomisji ds. przestrzeni kosmicznej z 26 września 2018 zaproponowano Leading Human Spaceflight Act, który zapewniałby przedłużenie finansowania ISS przez państwo do 2030 roku.

Leading Human Spaceflight Act został zaproponowany przez Briana Babina, przewodniczącego podkomisji ds. przestrzeni kosmicznej. Dokument zapewniłby finansowanie Międzynarodowej Stacji Kosmicznej do 2030 o ile nie pojawiłaby się do tego czasu tańsza i łatwiejsza alternatywa z sektora prywatnego. Kilka tygodni wcześniej w amerykańskim Senacie również wyrażono poparcie dla tej idei.

ISS jest klejnotem w koronie amerykańskiego programu kosmicznego. Pozycja lidera, jaką USA mają na niskiej orbicie okołoziemskiej, przynosi ogromne korzyści tutaj, na Ziemi – mówił Babin.

Podczas swojego wystąpienia zapytał on także słuchaczy, wśród których byli Bill Gerstenmeier oraz trzech dyrektorów różnych ośrodków badawczych NASA, o to jak Agencja zamierza zapobiec kolejnej luce w potencjale strategicznym, jaką byłaby utrata obecności na LEO.

Podchodzimy do sprawy bardzo poważnie. Zobaczymy, czym zainteresowany jest sektor prywatny przemysłu i jakie są jego możliwości odnośnie tego przedsięwzięcia, a następnie dokonamy płynnego przekazania w taki sposób, by nie kończyć nagle jednego projektu i zaczynać następnego.  – odpowiedział Gerstenmeier, odwołując się do planu przekazania ISS opublikowanego wcześniej tego roku przez NASA.

Zaproponowana w Izbie dyrektywa znajduje poparcie w Space Frontier Act, uchwalonym przez senacką podkomisję ds. przestrzeni kosmicznej w sierpniu 2018 roku i oczekuje zaaprobowania przez cały Senat. Jeden z inicjatorów Space Frontier Act, a także przewodniczący komisji, która go uchwaliła, Ted Cruz zwrócił uwagę na fakt, że amerykańscy podatnicy zainwestowali ponad 100 mld USD w Międzynarodową Stację Kosmiczną, i stwierdził, że jest bardzo istotnym, by obywatele mogli korzystać z osiągnięć programu jak najdłużej.

Nie możemy oddać LEO na wyłączność w ręce Chin ani żadnego innego państwa. Stany Zjednoczone muszą rozważyć przedłużenie stałej obecności załogi na orbicie, nawet po zakończeniu programu ISS.  – mówił Cruz w odniesieniu do planów umieszczenia przez Chińczyków pierwszej nieprzerwanie zamieszkanej stacji orbitalnej w 2022 roku na niskiej orbicie okołoziemskiej.

Jim Bridenstine, szef NASA, stanowczo odpowiedział senatorowi, że Agencja nie zamierza przeprowadzać wcześniejszej deorbitacji stacji. Ponadto stwierdził on także, że możliwość wydłużenia operacyjności ISS do 2030 roku jest prawdopodobna, lecz będzie zależeć przede wszystkim od ryzyka i kosztów.

Jim Bridenstine / Corey Lack Pictures

24 września 2018 Bridenstine wskazał wpływ, jaki przedłużenie finansowania ISS przez Agencję miałoby na inne jej plany.

Jeśli Senat chce nam dać dużo więcej pieniędzy, by kontynuować amerykańską obecność na ISS, chętnie je przyjmiemy. Jednak w rzeczywistości nasz budżet będzie bardzo obciążony i jeżeli chcemy zbudować stację księżycową oraz wysyłać ludzi na Marsa, będziemy musieli skomercjalizować Międzynarodową Stację Kosmiczną.

Temat dalszych rozmów partnerskich miedzy USA a Federacją Rosyjską w kontekście ISS oraz dalszych lotów eksploracyjnych był również kontynuowany podczas wizyty Jima Brindenstine’a w Rosji w drugim tygodniu października po zakończeniu Międzynarodowego Kongresu Astronautycznego w Bremie.

Źródło: Izba reprezentantów popiera plany wydłużenia finansowania ISS

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Odp: [ Spaceflight Now] NASA wrestles with what to do with ISS after 2024
« Odpowiedź #7 dnia: Luty 25, 2019, 17:48 »
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn plans to file measure extending U.S. operations of the space station to 2030
By Alex Stuckey Updated 9:34 pm CST, Friday, February 22, 2019 [Houston Chronicle]

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, visits the Houston Space Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Clear Lake. The senator sat down with leaders at NASA and local space companies to announce the introduction of a bill to extend authorization for the International Space Station, direct NASA to develop a next-gen spacesuit to allow exploration beyond low earth orbit, and promote NASA partnerships with private space innovators. Photo: Marie D. De Jesús, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer

With NASA’s funding at the mercy of the annual Congressional budgetary process, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he wants to provide predictability in at least one area of the country’s space program: the International Space Station.

“As we’ve seen, some of [NASA’s] stream of funding has been uncertain and interrupted by things like sequestration and shutdowns,” Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, told the Houston Chronicle Friday. “Before we can attract private capital, they are going to need some greater certainty.”

The Texas Congressman plans to file a measure in the coming weeks to extend the country’s operation of the space station to 2030. It currently is scheduled to end by the end of 2024, but Congress can extend it.

Cornyn on Friday toured Space Center Houston, the museum side of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and participated in a round-table discussion with local technology and space companies.

Representatives from those companies support Cornyn’s proposal.

Mark Mulqueen, Boeing’s space station program manager, said that he is in favor of increased life of the orbiting laboratory because Boeing and SpaceX are on the cusp of having commercial spacecrafts ready to fly.

In 2014, the two companies were tapped to build commercial vehicles to transport NASA astronauts to and from the space station as a means to alleviate the country’s reliance on Russian. The Russians have been transporting American astronauts since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program shuttered.

“Right now, the only market for the commercial crew is ISS so longevity to 2030 is so important for them,” Mulqueen said. Both companies are tentatively scheduled to fly crewed test flights for their spacecrafts by the end of this year.

But the continuation of the space station also impacts people who live in the community, said Robbie McAfoos, president of Houston-based Barrios Technology.

“Thousands of people here ... choose to work at the space agency,” McAfoos said. “They do this for their personal well being and for the well being of the country and the uncertainty of what will happen to the space station is hard on them.”

Last year, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, filed a similar measure in Congress, a response to President Donald Trump’s proposal to end federal funding for the space station in 2024, allowing commercial entities to take over its operation by 2025.

Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and many other congressional leaders were against Trump’s plan, questioning whether commercial companies could step up to fill the government’s funding role. Just in fiscal year 2017, NASA spent $1.45 billion on the space station — and that doesn’t count costs to transport astronauts and supplies there.

Cruz’s bill also would have extended U.S. operation of the space station to 2030. The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate in December, but failed to pass in the House.

This fact doesn’t deter Cornyn, however.

“It takes perseverance,” he said. “In Congress, sometimes it takes years to get things done.”

Experts have said the station can be safely operated until at least 2030.

Cornyn’s measure also would require NASA to create a strategy to retire the space station “to ensure that there is a smooth transition to an eventual successor platform,” according to a one-page summary of the measure, and would direct the agency to create next generation spacesuits for future exploration endeavors.

Additionally, it would make human settlements in space a national goal.

Alex Stuckey writes about NASA and the environment for the Houston Chronicle. You can reach her or