NASA has accomplished many things on the International Space Station, but that may be coming to an end very, very soon.
NASA and the International Space Station are breaking up — for good, it appears. The agency is looking to turn the International Space Station over to a privately held company sometime in the next few years as its priorities shift elsewhere.
NASA feels that this is the best way to keep the ISS operating and conducting important research in low-earth orbit. The agency expects to hand off operatiosn to a commercial entity sometime in the mid-2020s, according to a Verge report.
Currently, the station’s operational life extends to 2024. When it was built in 2000, it had originally been planned to last until 2010. Currently, the station’s primary contractor is Boeing, who is studying the possibility of operating the station beyond 2028 — a truly remarkable feat for a space station that has had to exist in an incredibly harsh environment.
The move is not really a surprise. The private space industry has been growing by leaps and bounds lately, and the U.S. government hasn’t had the funding to keep up with the needs of the ISS. What isn’t clear yet as to how exactly this arrangement will work, or if private companies will want to operate the ISS.
Meanwhile, NASA astronauts recently installed the first of two international docking adapters allowing private companies like Boeing and SpaceX to board the ISS.
“Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 8:04 a.m. EDT aboard the International Space Station to begin a spacewalk planned to last some six and a half hours,” the NASA statement reads. “Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins will install the first of two international docking adapters (IDAs) that will enable future arrivals of Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew spacecraft.”