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ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020 88

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the buy-two-at-twice-the-price dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the European Space Agency's (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain says that uncertainty is undermining the best use of the ISS and that only guaranteeing the ISS's longevity would cause more scientists to come forward to run experiments on the orbiting laboratory. 'I am convinced that stopping the station in 2015 would be a mistake because we cannot attract the best scientists if we are telling them today "you are welcome on the space station but you'd better be quick because in 2015 we close the shop,'' says Dordain. One of the biggest issues holding up an agreement on station-life extension is the human spaceflight review ordered by US President Barack Obama and the future of US participation in the ISS is intimately tied to the outcome of that review. Dordain says that no one partner in the ISS project could unilaterally call an end to the platform and that a meeting would be held in Japan later in the year where he hoped the partners could get some clarity going forward."
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ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020

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  • I don't understand (Score:5, Informative)

    by ctachme (1625925) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:21PM (#30785552)
    It isn't clear to me what the rationale for getting rid of the Space Station would be. As far as I can tell, if you didn't want to pay for shipping people up and down, you could still use it as a platform for scientific instruments. In that case, you would just have to occasionally use orbital corrections to compensate for atmospheric drag. So why deorbit it, ever? Is the cost of a few kilo's of propellant really that high? If you're talking about removing the crew that's one thing, but that's an incredible resource that you'd just be wasting.
  • by t0qer (230538) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:22PM (#30786100) Homepage Journal

    Hey guys found the source, it was a Washington post article.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102394.html [washingtonpost.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:47PM (#30786296)

    Actually, SpaceX is set to start supply flights to the ISS by 2012, with a human rated lift vehicle capable of astronaut launches by 2015. Check out SpaceX.com.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:57PM (#30786384) Homepage

    The basic problem is that the ISS isn't designed to operate unattended and requires a small support army on the ground to monitor it's system, orbit, attitude, etc... (And no, it's not going to be neither cheap nor trivial to change either.)

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @12:50AM (#30787810) Journal

    I'm not questioning the amount of money you have quoted here, as the number feels correct too. It just seems like NASA is incredibly wasteful of the money they have, and that it practically is the very definition of how to spend money in the most foolhardy method possible.

    Ack, this is really embarrassing on my part, but it looks like the "$4.5 billion a year" figure is inaccurate. I had it from this source [csis.org], which was one of the first items to pop up in my Google search: "In the years after the Shuttle retires, the annual operation costs of the ISS will be $4.5 billion per year.1"

    The footnote says that the figure came from one of these two GAO sources:

    * NASA: Challenges in Completing and Sustaining the International Space Station [gao.gov]

    * Space Station: Actions Under Way to Manage Cost, but Significant Challenges Remain [gao.gov]

    However, after reading your comment I've searched through the text of both GAO sources and I can't find anything to support the first source's claim. I did find the following through from the first GAO report: "NASA estimates that assembly and operating costs of the ISS will be between $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion annually for FY2009-FY2012. The ISS as of February 19, 2008, is approximately 65 percent complete."

    I ended up looking through the final report of the White House/NASA Augustine Commission [nasa.gov] (published late 2009) and found this in section 6.4.2:

    The choice of ending U.S. participation in the ISS in 2015 really provides only one benefit, that of freeing up the roughly $2.5 to $3 billion per year needed to
    run the ISS,
    which can then be invested in the more rapid development of the exploration systems. The Committee's Integrated Option analyses show that if coupled to the choice of commercial crew launch system to low-Earth orbit and the Ares V Lite heavy lift choice, this expenditure on the ISS would delay the exploration of the Moon until the mid-2020s, only a few years after the most aggressive, unconstrained profile would accomplish it.

    In any case, $2.5-$3 billion a year is still a huge chunk of change. I totally agree with your original sentiment.

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