Space Station Managers Want Decision on Extending ISS Soon

Dragon at Space Station
Space News
reports that NASA officials want a decision on extending ISS operations soon:

NASA space station managers hope to receive word this year on whether the orbiting outpost’s mission will be stretched beyond 2020 because an extension would require supporting investments starting as soon as 2015, a senior agency official said.

“We would like to get a policy decision this year,” Sam Scimemi, international space station (ISS) program director at NASA headquarters, told members of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee. “In other words, during the [2015] budget process.”

If the decision is made this year, it could be factored into NASA’s 2015 budget request, which will be submitted to Congress as early as February.

“Within a couple of years, we have to start making contract decisions about what to buy, what not to buy,” Scimemi said. “We’re having discussions now [within NASA].”

Asked about the timing of such a decision during the NewSpace Conference three weeks ago, outgoing Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said she felt NASA had a bit more time.

“We have in the U.S. sort of a five-year budget time frame, and so we were running up against that when we extended it from [20]15,” Garver told reporters. “So, if you look at when you would have to start spending money, you look five years out. So, we’re preparing a [20]15 year budget now. That isn’t really a budget issue probably until [20]16.”

Garver was also asked about the difficulty of getting NASA’s European, Japanese and Canadian partners to commit to another eight years of operating an aging space station. There have been rumblings, especially from Russia, of wanting to move on to other projects.

“As I talked about, it is something that we all want to work toward, but we have to do it in a way that really does reduce those costs and increases its meaning and capabilities. So, our partners have the same issues that we do, that these are tax dollars and when the public is paying for this, their government leadership wants to see a return.

“So, we worked together a couple of years ago to get it extended from [20]15 to 2020, that was easier with some of the partners than others, some are just getting there. And so, really, moving them another eight years now when it seems pretty far away and it is, in many of their cases, a pretty high share of what their government-funded space programs do, is a stretch. I think if we can reduce the costs, that will allow more people to see it as a valuable thing to do, and we are working toward that together….

“Let me just mention on the space station issue, and we talked about not only in the U.S. but in other countries, folks want to invest in space programs and help their own industry and so forth. And so, while space station we’re utilizing now, a lot of countries have similar to us more interest in building something new because that’s what sort of returns the benefit. I was talking in Japan, in particular, we all thought in the beginning they were going to really utilize space station and we were concerned they would be the ones developing all the commercial flights. People want to do, sort of, the next thing, and that’s a natural part of these programs.”

De-orbiting station would also free up money for NASA to conduct deep space operations with Orion and the Space Launch System.

  • mzungu

    With 100/50 Billion dollars spend on the ISS… ,
    Do we have a spaceplane yet? Nope.
    Do we have a flying car yet? No. ..
    Do we have a cure for cancer? нет.
    Do we have a cure for the common cold yet? nope…
    Do we have a cure for dirrarea? No…
    Do we even have a new flavor of Tang? Nope.

    Sadly, cancelling the ISS would mean the $ going to SLS. 🙁

  • Tombomb123

    Do we have a flying car yet? yes we do 😀 and wasn’t shuttle a space plane?. Anyway i can’t see the ISS lasting long if/or when Bob Bigelow has his module’s up there. For instance does anyone really think the European’s and Japanese will keep supplying the ISS in return for an astronaut or two a year when they could conceivable have there own station from Bigelow for about the same as they spend on an ATV or HTV ?

  • therealdmt

    I believe, iirc, that this is the most expensive structure ever built. We have to at least *try* to utilize it. For years, decades now, we’ve heard NASA scientists bemoan what we could do, if only we had access to long term experiments in space — truly learn about biological effects, learn about closed-loop life support, the reactions of materials, doing materials science, doing applied science in materials and biology, flight testing engineering solutions to things like fluids transfer and dealing with plasmas…okay, we have that space station. And we got it at great cost. Too great, but what’s been done is done. Now we have it, let’s use it!

    If we don’t use this great investment, what makes you think we’d actually utilize a lunar base? It’s “build it; it goes over budget, threaten to cancel it, pull it out of the fire and downsize it/stretch it out, repeat; it actually finally gets built many many years later; people are bored by this time and want to move on to the next thing; it’s abandoned with a half-decade gap before the next big project that will only eventually be abandoned again. Meanwhile, entire generations pass and the only real space travel going on is in the movies…

  • therealdmt

    Utilize the space station, fund commercial crew to reduce the cost to orbit. employ Bigelow modules to expand or replace station elements, giving flight proof to inflatables. Work hard on closed loop life support, as well as on basic science and commercial applications. Finally decommission the ISS in about 2028 and replace with commercial/Bigelow stations as needed.

    With the lower cost to orbit from commercial crew and proven Bigelow modules, we can then go about utilizing the moon. Drop the SLS frankly, but if that must be funded, so be it. The SLS/Orion can certainly play a role, it’s just that it’s basically too expensive to use. If SpaceX gets their manned Dragon capsule and Falcon Heavy going as advertised, we should seriously (VERY seriously) consider riding that winning hand instead. For now, it makes sense to keep gradually (and VERY expensively) continuing to Fund SLS, as the manned Dragon hasn’t even been tested in unmanned mode yet.

  • mzungu

    Hahaha… i am sure this Terrafugia thing will fly. by that I mean sell)….LOL nothing like dropping out of the sky, because someone bumped into you at the parking lot, when u were watching. Not to mension, it’s as ugly as XCOR Lynx, works of amateurs, I tell ya.

    Bigelow is ok with building an inflatable structure, it is still depend on ISS for power/altitude control/life-support and so many other things….It will never be a true private venture, it’ll will be sucking NASA $$ for a long long time…

  • Robert Gishubl

    The death line is De-orbiting station would free up money for NASA to commit more pork to SLS Orion. This will be the justification of all too many in congress for canning ISS and hence comercial crew. Unfortunately SLS Orion can not perform any meaningfull deep space operations without assembly of multiple modules in space. It has enough launch capacity to do a flyby around the moon but that is it. So if you need to assemble something in space as complex and critical as life support and propulsion you will need some on site set up and testing before you go on a year long mission to Mars or an asteroid. How will the set up crew get there and live while doing this? Do you want the mission crew to have to do this before departure?
    It makes much more sense to assemble the modules at or near ISS where the ISS crew can do the final system checks and tests prior to flight crew arriving for departure.
    Without ISS or other space station as a final set up base any deep space mission will be a short term publicity stunt rather than a meaningfull mission of scientific exploration. Then again for many in congress they do not care about long term scientific exploration leading to economic growth they just care about the growth of campaign funds for the next election campaign.

  • Tombomb123

    “It will never be a true private venture” I disagree see i think there is a market for leasing of space station’s at the right price that is and Bob Bigelow thinks so too. ESA could lease a single station from Bigelow for around the same price they spend on a ATV(500mil) which currently get’s them two ISS astronauts a year. government’s are where the big bucks are not tourist joyride’s. anyway what does “true private venture” mean exactly for instance if you mean a company is not a “true private venture” because it has no other customer’s other than governments/a government then that is simple a wrong conclusion. if you to go down that route then any company that sells it’s product to a government can not be considered a “true private venture” which is just absurd! and I think it goes without saying that the american government could tax the heck out of this new found market.

  • Hug Doug

    that does beg the question, why would you have to assemble your life support in space if you’re going to Mars? if you’re going with Orion, the life support is already in the spacecraft. simplicity is key here, if you launch everything up at once and avoid assembly, it’s easier. hence the SLS, which is designed to be able loft large modules all at once. the rationale for the SLS is there. avoid multiple launches and assembly in space.

  • Robert Gishubl

    Orion is not large enough, it needs a habitation module for extra volume and consumables as well as additional propulsion to get anywhere further than a moon flyby. SLS is not large enough to lift the extra modules required so even with SLS you need to assemble it in space, even for a bare bones flyby of Mars let alone a capable mission with redundant systems to cope with multi year mission.

  • Hug Doug

    the SLS is ultimately supposed to be able to lift up to 280,000 lb. how much fuel / consumables do you need?

  • mattmcc80

    Bigelow’s Genesis I and II modules have already demonstrated power systems and some very basic internal systems. They have contracted with other companies Orbitech and Aerojet for life support and propulsion systems. So no, it doesn’t appear that they’re dependent on ISS. Instead, it appears their biggest roadblock right now is affordable crew transportation, not missing station subsystems.

    As for a market, they have memorandums of understanding with several countries already interested in buying or leasing stations.

  • mzungu

    Memorandums of understanding is not worth the toilet paper that’s written on it.

    A private Station is doable, but it will require a far bigger investment that Bigelow has at the moment. When you have human lives involved, the company is going to need more than the 100 or so people in Bigelow employment involved.

    With Bigelow changes of direction on station focus so often, and the layoff not long ago, I am skeptical of it’s financial health, if there is no NASA money. Sure, they claim it is because of availability of crew transport, but u need to look behind all the Corporate Speaks, Bigelow could just as easily fly passengers up with the Soyuz…

    sure, it’s $40M and more than the price SpaceX would claim, but once the thing gets going and SpaceX knows that they got the Gov or Bigelow by the balls, that price will go up just like the Russian flights, and all the privatization of the US military had go.

  • mzungu

    If NASA is having problem finding private interest in doing research on the ISS right now, how is it that you can convince ESA to rent the extra space?

    Private company is not interested in doing space research, unless they know they can make money off juicy NASA contracts, fact.

  • Paul451

    Bigelow is ok with building an inflatable structure, it is still depend on ISS for power/altitude control/life-support and so many other things….It will never be a true private venture, it’ll will be sucking NASA $$ for a long long time…

    It sounds like you’re confusing the small BEAM module that Bigelow is building for the ISS, with Bigelow in general.