NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

 

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report that assesses NASA’s progress in maximizing utilization of the International Space Station to accomplish its human exploration objectives and examines the challenges associated with transitioning the Station to commercial operations and its eventual retirement.

The report, NASA’s Management and Utilization of the International Space Station, questions whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies will be able to develop a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Federal funding within the next 6 years.

International Space Station
Credit: NASA

Annual dollars

The OIG reports points out that any extension of the ISS past 2024 would require continued funding in the neighborhood of $3-$4 billion annually to operate and maintain the Station – a significant portion of which could otherwise be redirected to develop systems needed for NASA’s cislunar or deep space ambitions.

In addition, the OIG explains that extending the Station’s life would challenge NASA to manage the risks associated with continued operation of the Station’s aging systems and infrastructure. Furthermore, any extension will require the support of NASA’s international partners, whose continued participation hinges on issues ranging from geopolitics to differing space exploration goals.

NASA currently does not have the capability to ensure the ISS will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in a targeted location in the South Pacific Ocean.
Credit: NASA

 

ISS deorbit

Lastly, at some future date NASA will need to decommission and deorbit the ISS either in response to an emergency or at the end of its useful life. However, the Agency currently does not have the capability to ensure the ISS will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in a targeted location in the South Pacific Ocean.

For a copy of the OIG report, NASA’s Management and Utilization of the International Space Station, go to:

https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-18-021.pdf

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