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ISS Space The Almighty Buck

Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS? 211

MarkWhittington writes: While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.
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Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS?

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:27AM (#50588573)
    there will?
    • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:43AM (#50588645)
      At the time it was being proposed, there was a lot of doubt about its value, and it hasn't done much of value except look pretty and produce some fun pictures. The research would almost certainly have been done FAR cheaper on unattended satellites. The main motivation was political.

      Of course if the Chinese threaten to launch one on their own, then Congress will suddenly find the money - but probably by raiding lots of other Science budgets. This probably would not be a good thing...
    • In order to support the business model of the people on this panel, yes.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:28AM (#50588577)

    How's it going to protect crew (and equipment) from hard radiation? Seems to me that getting all that (lots of) extra mass to escape velocity would make it *way* more expensive than.

    Would it be more practical to build a habitat in one of those caves that the Moon is supposed to have?

    • How's it going to protect crew (and equipment) from hard radiation? Seems to me that getting all that (lots of) extra mass to escape velocity would make it *way* more expensive than.

      Would it be more practical to build a habitat in one of those caves that the Moon is supposed to have?

      But how can one deal with moon dust?

    • Given that reaching the nearest viable Lagrange Point is going to mean going atleast 150K miles rather that the three to four hundred currently needed for LEO I think Radiation Shielding is the least of their problems given how ridiculously expensive it is getting into space to start off with (Which I know the price is coming down). I think we're going to see a lot of weird & wonderful space stations in LEO from commercial space companies long before anyone goes to a Lagrange point with a manned missio
      • Given that reaching the nearest viable Lagrange Point is going to mean going at least 150K miles rather that the three to four hundred currently needed for LEO I think Radiation Shielding is the least of their problems given how ridiculously expensive it is getting into space to start off with

        Orbital mechanics does not work that way. Expense doesn't simply scale with distance.

        Getting to LEO requires ~10km/s of delta-v, whilst going from there to L4/5 requires an additional ~4km/s, which could be undertaken using highly fuel efficient ion or VASIMR engines.

        The fuel required to for the second leg of the journey wouldn't be more than a single percent of the total fuel for the trip, which could take a few months.

        If you want to get there really quickly you could do it in nine days using traditiona

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        That's the simplistic way of saying "mass". Which is really expensive to launch.

        • uh, no. Water makes a great shield for radation. In particular, when things like lead is used, it actually causes a great deal of scatter. Water does not. In addition, water is required for life so it will already be there. Just need to add more.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:44AM (#50588649)

    Is there some technical reason the ISS will no longer work after the mid-2020s or is it merely a budget issue? Why are we not keeping it up there if it is still serving whatever purpose it was designed for?

    • mold maybe?

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Lots of vital unreplaceable/unrepairable parts would probably be well beyond their design specification and thus prone to failure.

      • Lots of vital unreplaceable/unrepairable parts would probably be well beyond their design specification and thus prone to failure.

        What on it cannot be repaired or replaced? Why would they design it that way? It's basically modular in construction as far as I can tell so it's not clear to me why they couldn't replace any given portion of it. Is it that we don't/won't have an adequate lift vehicle? Just terrible design?

        • It can all be replaced. But the design is too inefficient. Inflatables are better. And other than the backbone, nothing else is really that reusable.
        • Remember, we're really not able to do that kind of 'deconstruction / rehab' in space. All we've managed to do is bolt / unbolt things and plug some wiring harnesses together. Unless the item was specifically designed to be replaced in space, it will be very difficult to do so.

          Now, this would be an interesting and useful exercise in and of itself but I don't see it as sexy enough to get funding.

    • Old. Too much stress on it. The fact is, that space is a harsh environment.
    • Is there some technical reason the ISS will no longer work after the mid-2020s or is it merely a budget issue? Why are we not keeping it up there if it is still serving whatever purpose it was designed for?

      IIRC from a previous ./ article, the gaskets and seals are only rated to work so long and their effectiveness is decreasing with time. The ISS already leaks and has to be resupplied and as time goes on, the cost of maintenance will go up. Any attempt to replace these parts in space would end up costing so much that it would be cheaper to just build a new space station and send it up. This is one of the obstacles to any Mars trip. They'll need something that can contain its atmosphere with minimal leakage ov

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      My guess is that in addition to aging, there is the law of diminishing returns.
      When we first build a new scientific apparatus, there are plenty of discoveries being made, then, it goes downhill, because much of what can be done with it has been done.
      So the next step is to improve it, for example by adding new instruments, or upgrading the old ones. But there is a limit on what can be done. And at some point you end up with something that is very expensive but produces very little. Sure, we can still hold on

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:54AM (#50588705) Homepage Journal

    conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984

    Thank you, samzenpus. I wasn't sure what to thank Saint Ronnie for today. Did he forge the structure with the same death-ray eyes that he used to tear down the Berlin Wall?

    • by crow_t_robot ( 528562 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @09:10AM (#50588765)
      It's funny to see the rose-colored glasses for Reagan these past couple of years considering he tripled the national debt, sold arms to Iran and packed up the troops and left Beirut after ~250 Marines were slaughtered in the barracks bombing with no one held accountable and a whole host of other shit no one cares to remember.
      • The Republicans are remembering a time when they could field a candidate that someone would want to elect, because they don't make lizard-man conspiracy theories seem plausible.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          The Republicans are remembering a time when they could field a candidate that someone would want to elect, because they don't make lizard-man conspiracy theories seem plausible.

          The Republican establishment don't want their candidate to become President, because then people might expect them to do something. Having Trump in the White House is their nightmare scenario; they'd rather see Hillary there, so they can keep telling Republican voters 'you must vote for us in Congress so we can stop Clinton!' Why else do you think they keep pushing for another Bush?

          They hated Reagan for the same reason they hate Trump: they're both outsiders who could actually win.

      • I still think Reagan would have made a great king. He had presence. I think he'd have had to change his name, though. "Ronald, King of the United States of America and Protector of the Seas" doesn't have the right ring.

      • He defeated the Soviet Union using dollars instead of your dad.

        Brilliant, although there turned out to be a catch; now we get to listen to you.

        • He defeated

          That's cute. We were both running through money at a wild rate. The USSR hit bottom first. We were getting there thanks to brilliant ideas like the Star Wars program.

          • Exactly. How brilliant was that? It was a complete bluff.

            Just in case you weren't there: We all bought into Star Wars. All of us. To a nerd, it seemed kind of far fetched, but plausible in theory. Non-nerds bought it hook line and sinker. They said they could do it. The CIA has secret shit that we don't know about. That's true today; it was certainly true then. To make it a plausible bluff, they needed to convince us first.

            Who cares what we thought, really; the Russians bought it. That's what mattered.

            There

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      It's Mark Whittington. A nice guy, but a serious believer in the Church of Ronnie.

      • It's Mark Whittington. A nice guy, but a serious believer in the Church of Ronnie.

        Well, he is in friendly hands here on slashdot. The Church of Ronnie is very popular amongst slashdot readers. It is slightly more popular than the church of Ron Paul, though sometimes slightly less vocal.

  • AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA No, but seriously, it won't be the market.
  • Answer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Digital Mage ( 124845 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @08:55AM (#50588711)

    Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS?

    China

  • Seriously? Place policy experts?? That's quite an autocorrect from space policy... (not even worth bemoaning the lack of effort...)
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @09:15AM (#50588787)

    the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984,

    Ronald Reagan no more conceived the International Space Station than he painted the Sistine Chapel. First, ideas for space stations go back to the 1920s, and in the 1970's the US and the USSR both started flying space stations (Skylab and Salyut, respectively). Second, while in 1984 Reagan proposed Space Station Freedom in his state of the union address, it is not what we have flying now. Third, while Reagan was not totally senile in 1984, he was never a technologist, and did not himself play any role in the development of the (proposed) station; the plans were developed by NASA and just announced by the White House.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      If I remember correctly, Reagan supported giving NASA a few billion dollars for a space station, and NASA burned through all that money without putting a single part of it in space?

      Then Clinton pushed ISS as a way of making friends with the Russians, and it survived various attempts to cull it on that basis.

      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        If I remember correctly, Reagan supported giving NASA a few billion dollars for a space station, and NASA burned through all that money without putting a single part of it in space?

        Then Clinton pushed ISS as a way of making friends with the Russians, and it survived various attempts to cull it on that basis.

        That's not a bad summary.Al Gore actually did a lot of the pushing, it was not so much making friends with the Russians as keeping their scientists and engineers peacefully employed, and getting ESA and Japan on board was also essential (it turns out to be much harder to cut truly international programs), but you got the basics.

      • You forget the part where Congress and the OMB kept sending NASA back to the drawing board time and time again because the designs were "too expensive" resulting in the spending of more money (in redesigns) than was ultimately saved and deleting key aspects of the stations that would have provided substantial value along the way.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Nobody said Reagan conceived the ISS. What he said was, "During my service in the United States Presidency, I took the initiative in creating the International Space Station." Accurate! According to Vint Cerf, "The ISS would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the President in his current role and in his earlier role as Governor."
    • Pedantry.

      By that same logic, I'm sure you'd agree then that it shouldn't be called Obamacare, the president cannot claim credit for "Getting Bin Laden" or even signing the Iran deal? Nor, then, should Reagan be blamed for Iran/Contra or the massive deficit spending of his administration?

      Did Reagan conceive or build the ISS? Clearly not.
      But there's a thing called the "head of government" that (at least used to) means "the buck stops here" giving them credit for programs they championed and disasters that h

  • Elon Musk.

    That man needs a place where he can wear a silver turtleneck and pet a white cat while laughing at the world with an evil laugh.

    I fully welcome our new Elon Overlord.

    • SpaceX would be broke without NASA contracts. Musk is doing interesting stuff in space, but most of it is with other people's money.
  • I had no idea he was the guy that conceived of the space station.
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @10:29AM (#50589189)

    I went to this meeting, and I thought it was one of the best commercial space meetings I have been to.

    The summary was pretty on point, except that it didn't mention the prospect of tourism really taking off as the costs and complexity of going on-orbit decrease. (Right now, among other things, you have to learn Russian to become a space tourist.) It really looks like commercial space stations will become a reality in the not too distant future.

    • And that's too bad. It seems like the established space-faring, rocket-launching community is against tourism as being "below" them, but I'd still bet it's economically viable -- there are many communities, towns, states, and even entire countries that base their economies off of tourism. It's not the best long-term economic plan, but it'd definitely work in the short-term to get space travel to become commonplace, which is all we really need.

      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        Tourism was certainly discussed at the meeting, and Bigelow (for example) is counting big on it, but it didn't seem to make the summary.

    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @11:43AM (#50589793) Journal
      If the GOP will quit trying to kill private space, then bigelow and ilc/dover can get their private space stations going. That by itself will NOT be money makers. However bigelow wants the moon. If he starts making progress to get to the moon, then every nation that can afford it , will want to put ppl on the moon for exploration. At that point, every nation will use private space to build their space agencies on. In effect, you will see at least 50 ppl in space training to go to the moon. All that is needed is to get the GOP to quit supporting Russia and have them support America's private space.
  • The Chinese and Russians will put up smaller replacements. Neither US political party is interested in space and continually starve NASA. One party thinks social programs are way more important. The other party thinks research spending should be private, not government.
  • What a joke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday September 24, 2015 @11:28AM (#50589669) Journal
    Mark blames Obama in the last paragraph. Yet Obama increased NASA funding when dems were in place, but since the gop took congress, they have cut NASA, as well as funneled money from private space to putin and SLS. Iow, the gop have become supporters of Russia over American business and big expensive wasteful communist style projects over fast inexpensive private launchers.
  • What use is that statement? Ronald Reagan came up with the idea of a space station, or specifically ISS? Yeah, the US wanted to make their own station that he announced in 1984, but to give him credit for coming up with the idea is downright foolish. It did not become an international project until the 90's at the end of the cold war. People have been dreaming of internationally operated space projects for as long as we have known we could put things in orbit.

Man will never fly. Space travel is merely a dream. All aspirin is alike.

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