Last February, the Trump administration put the small world of the space industry in turmoil by asking NASA to seek, in the private sector, companies interested in managing the ISS after 2024. Wednesday, June 6, the new boss from the US Space Agency announced that companies were showing interest.
But this privatization project of the ISS is extremely criticized in the United States, as no new space company is really ready to take over from NASA.
100 billion dollars in 20 years
It has been running for 20 years in orbit around the Earth, at a speed of 28,000 km / h. Inaugurated in 1998 under Bill Clinton, the international space station is a rare example of successful cooperation between Russia, the United States, but also Europe, Japan and Canada. It has been continuously inhabited since 2000, and the experiments that are taking place are advancing science and industry. But in terms of accounting, the ISS is also a financial pitfall, that the Trump administration wants to retouch as soon as possible.
The United States, the largest donor of the ISS, spends between $ 3 and $ 4 billion each year. Initially expected to last only 10 years, the orbital outpost of humanity has already cost more than $ 100 billion. The White House has instructed NASA to find in the private sector companies able to commercially manage the station from 2025. And the new director of NASA, the Republican elected Jim Bridenstine arrived in April, says There are people who can provide commercial management of the International Space Station.
Boeing company and SpaceX company on the ranks?
NASA does not give any names at this time. But two companies are already involved in the program: Boeing and SpaceX both work on space shuttles (the Starliner for Boeing, the Dragon for SpaceX) that will be used to route and bring astronauts from the ISS. But managing the ISS is a different mission.
How would a private company operate the ISS? Maybe it will be reconfigured, some parts de-orbited, and new modules installed. Nothing is stopped yet. Ideas are flowing, but the current debate in the United States focuses on the level of private sector readiness. Many experts and US officials believe that no new space company is, at the moment.