10 Oct 2018 20:02

U.S. may consider possible extension of ISS operations until 2030 - NASA administrator

MOSCOW. Oct 10 (Interfax) - The United States Congress might consider the possible extension of the International Space Station (ISS) operations until 2030, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

While the current plans are that the ISS will be operated until 2024, ways to extend its operations are under consideration now, Bridenstine said in an exclusive interview with Interfax, which will also be published in Kommersant.

"The president's budget request has said that we are going to end the direct funding in 2025 with the intent to commercialize the low-Earth orbit in 2025. So, that is being said and I support that policy. It is also true that it appears the Congress has other ideas. The Congress is maybe looking to extending it to 2030. There is a bill in the House [of Representatives] and a bill in the Senate that would do that," Bridenstine said.

"It is really unknown at this time what that law would ultimately say, but in either case it is incumbent upon us how to figure out how to commercialize low-Earth orbit," he said.

"Of course, as NASA administrator I will follow the law, whatever law Congress passes. [...] The intent is for NASA to be one customer of many customers operating in the low-Earth orbit and to have multiple providers that are competing against each other on cost and innovation," Bridenstine said.

The commercialization of low-Earth orbit would enable NASA to free up resources for new projects, he said.

"If we can have a competitive market place in low-Earth orbit for human habitation where NASA can be one customer of many customers, and we have multiple providers competing on cost and innovation, it drives down our cost, it increases access, and then NASA can use its resources to go further," he said.

"We've been in the low-Earth orbit now for 18 years straight on the International Space Station," he said.

"Of course, that can go at least till 2024 and maybe longer, but what we have to do is we have to figure out how we go further. And in order to go further we need to free up resources that are currently in the low-Earth orbit, and so we free up those resources by commercial operations and then use NASA's resources to go to the Moon and on to Mars," Bridenstine said.

The full version of the interview in the Russian and English will be available on www.interfax.ru, www.interfax.com., and in the October 11 issue of Kommersant.