NASA plans to leave the ISS behind as the U.S. space agency is weighing long term budgets while planning to move into the moon’s orbit.
The announcement was made by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight during an advisory panel meeting. And it makes perfect cost-gain sense. NASA plans to leave the ISS behind, slashing any future successor to the International Space Station. The current orbital laboratory will see funding up to 2028 at the latest. After this point, the pathway is clear for private space companies to take over.
NASA is targeting the cislunar space or the moon’s orbit in the near future. Which leaves the agency with no funding opportunities to sustain an orbital laboratory in the low Earth orbit following 2028 at the latest.
For the past 15 years, NASA has been dedicated to the International Space Station. During this period, private space companies have received all the support they needed to thrive in the industry. Both transportation costs and the costs of the scientific experiments have been covered by the U.S. space agency. One of the thorny issues that NASA faced was the ferrying of U.S. astronauts to the ISS and back. Private companies played a key role in developing the spacecrafts needed to perform this task. Still under development, a number of spacecrafts will be the future of commercial spaceflight for the U.S.
Yet, as NASA plans to move in the cislunar space and leave low Earth orbit behind, private space companies will be left on their own.
“We’re going to get out of ISS as quickly as we can. Whether it gets filled in by the private sector or not, NASA’s vision is we’re trying to move out”,
NASA plans to leave the ISS behind, while hoping at the same time that the private sector fills in the empty space. However, that depends on the private space companies and their ability to grab the opportunities offered, including microgravity research still covered by the U.S. space agency.
Moving from low Earth orbit into cislunar space isn’t a new piece of information. NASA have been ramping up projects in this sense recently and it is expected that the Space Launch System could reach lunar orbit as soon as 2021, with the four-member crew aboard the Orion capsule.
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