The official budget request is expected to be released February 12, but in advance, The Washington Post acquired an internal NASA document that outlines the plans for the International Space Station.
Washington is preparing to end the financing of the ISS through NASA after 2024.
The NASA document says that ending federal support of the ISS doesn't mean it will necessarily come down, as "it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements of capabilities of the ISS of a future commercial platform".
In its budget request to be released Monday, the administration would request $150 million in fiscal year 2019, with more in additional years, "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS-potentially including elements of the ISS-are operational when they are needed".
The unmanned spaceship was aiming to reach the station in a record-breaking three-and-a-half hours.
There is also the worldwide element to think about: As Frank Slazer, vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, told The Washington Post, "It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the global agreements that the United States is involved in". "It is the intent of NASA and the Administration to maintain seamless access to a human platform in LEO that meets NASA's and the Nation's goals", the document states.
Another barrier to sale is the ISS's global partners.
Boeing has helped manage the ISS for more than 20 years and space station manager Mark Mulqueen warned against privatisation. "As long as I'm chairman of the science and space subcommittee, the ISS will continue to have strong and bipartisan support in the United States Congress".
"NASA and the International Space Station partnership is committed to full scientific and technical research on the orbiting laboratory, as it is the foundation on which we will extend human presence deeper into space", a NASA spokesman said in a statement.
NASA did not immediately respond to Geek's request for comment.
The idea probably won't go over well at the congressional level, especially given how Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), per the Post, got pretty animated last week when he was discussing talk of such a proposal at the Federal Aviation Administration's Commercial Space Transportation Conference. "We have invested massively in the ISS".
Cutting off funding to the International Space Station was previously criticized as harmful to the public and private interests of the United States in space. First of all, the steep costs of maintaining and operating the station will likely never lead to profits.
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